rare-earth metals

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rare-earth metals,

in chemistry, group of metals including those of the lanthanide serieslanthanide series,
a series of metallic elements, included in the rare-earth metals, in Group 3 of the periodic table. Members of the series are often called lanthanides, although lanthanum (atomic number 57) is not always considered a member of the series.
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 and actinide seriesactinide series,
a series of radioactive metallic elements in Group 3 of the periodic table. Members of the series are often called actinides, although actinium (at. no. 89) is not always considered a member of the series.
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 and usually yttriumyttrium
[for Ytterby, a town in Sweden], metallic chemical element; symbol Y; at. no. 39; at. wt. 88.90585; m.p. about 1,522°C;; b.p. 3,338°C;; sp. gr. about 4.45; valence +3. Yttrium is a highly crystalline iron-gray metal.
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, sometimes scandiumscandium
, metallic chemical element; symbol Sc; at. no. 21; at. wt. 44.95591; m.p. 1,541°C;; b.p. 2,831°C;; sp. gr. 2.99 at 20°C;; valence +3. Scandium is a soft silver-white metal.
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 and thoriumthorium
[from Thor], radioactive chemical element; symbol Th; at. no. 90; mass number of most stable isotope 232; m.p. about 1,750°C;; b.p. about 4,790°C;; sp. gr. 11.7 at 20°C;; valence +4.

Thorium is a soft, ductile, lustrous, silver-white, radioactive metal.
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, and rarely zirconiumzirconium
, metallic chemical element; symbol Zr; at. no. 40; at. wt. 91.224; m.p. about 1,852°C;; b.p. 4,377°C;; sp. gr. 6.5 at 20°C;; valence +2, +3, or +4.

Zirconium is a very strong, malleable, ductile, lustrous silver-gray metal.
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. Promethium, which is not found in nature, is not usually considered a rare-earth metal. The metals usually occur together in minerals as their oxides (rare earthsrare earths,
in chemistry, oxides of the rare-earth metals. They were once thought to be elements themselves. They are widely distributed in the earth's crust and are fairly abundant, although they were once thought to be very scarce.
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) and are somewhat difficult to separate because of their chemical similarity. A subgroup of the rare-earth metals, consisting of those with atomic numbers between 57 and 63 and ytterbium, is often called the cerium metals. Misch metal is an alloy of the cerium metals often used in lighter flints, in alloys with other metals (especially magnesiummagnesium
, metallic chemical element; symbol Mg; at. no. 12; at. wt. 24.3050; m.p. about 648.8°C;; b.p. about 1,090°C;; sp. gr. 1.738 at 20°C;; valence +2. In 1808, Sir Humphry Davy discovered magnesium in its oxide, although it is not certain that he isolated the
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), and to remove residual gases in the manufacture of vacuum tubes. Individual metals may be isolated as their compounds by ion exchange methods, solvent extraction, or fractional crystallization, and chemically or electrolytically reduced to the pure metal. Uses are discussed in articles on individual elements.


See F. H. Spedding and A. H. Daane, ed., The Rare Earths (1961, repr. 1971); E. C. Subbarao and W. E. Wallace, ed., Science and Technology of Rare Earth Metals (1980).

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