Streams

Underreported: Neodymium and Green Energy

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Neodymium is a rare earth metal and important component in the electric car engines and wind turbines that are being touted as the future of alternative energy. But, neodymium is not without it’s problems. We'll look at what neodymium is and why we may soon face a global shortage of it with New America Foundation Fellow Lisa Margonelli. Lisa is also author of the book Oil on the Brain

Guests:

Lisa Margonelli
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Comments [3]

Sreedhar

This segment contained several important facts omitted. Neodymium is not rare (it is at least as abundant as lead). Just that China now produces 95% of all rare earth metals (pretty abundant in reality).

Apr. 16 2009 02:45 PM
stephen from Stony Brook

hello, Leonard -

Neodymium is important because, pound-for-pound, it is one of the best elements that can be blended with cobalt and iron to make extremely strong magnets (I'm happy to explain why, but it's technical). Your guest's comment that "electromagnets" can replace it is false. A natural, "permanent" magnet is important here, because of the inherent potential energy that a magnet affords us. Give me all of the thorium-90 that comes with mining rare-earths, as you can use the thorium to make lifesaving isotopes of other materials!

As with any mining, environmental sensitivities MUST be taken into account, but with some clever chemistry (I'm almost done w/ my PhD in chemistry), you can make money and protect the environment.

Here's one alternative: recycle ALL of the speakers and other electronic equipment found in stereos, cars, iPods, cell phones, computers, etc. as they will have varying levels of neodymium-based magnetic materials.

regards,

stephen

Apr. 16 2009 02:04 PM
Jerome from Prospect Heights, Brooklyn

Thanks for covering the use of neodymium. As a musician I've noted the increasing use of neodymium in very lightweight and powerful magnets in speakers for musical instruments and microphones. I wasn't aware of its use in larger industries such as electricity generation and electric car engines.

Apr. 16 2009 01:54 PM

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