The rare earth metals are inarguably different from the other elements. They occupy their own special section in the periodic table. They have names that sound more like medical conditions than chemical elements–dysprosium, neodymium, and praseodymium, for example. Trace amounts of 10 of the 17 rare earths play critical roles in many of the devices essential to our lives today, among them computer hard drives, smartphones, and hybrid cars; infrastructure technology, including wind energy turbines and MRI machines; and national security paraphernalia such as naval radars and guided missiles. And they could become key factors in a trade war between the United States and China.
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Volume 61, Issue 6, November-December 2018