Rare Earth Elements Uses

REEs are essential to manufacturing a wide range of products, from everyday consumer items like cellphones to important defense applications like precision-guided munitions. Because of their unique chemical properties, REEs often are the only option for specific applications and many devices could not function without them. 

Today’s technologically reliant society requires a steadily increasing amount of REEs to operate. For example, the average smart phone or laptop requires a number of different REEs for the camera lens, screen, rechargeable battery, phosphors (lighting), hard drive, disk drives, and speakers. LED and fluorescent lighting are also reliant on a combination of REEs. 

Our need for REEs will continue to grow as the world transitions towards renewable energy sources and vehicle electrification, which will depend in part on what are known as rare earth permanent magnets. These magnets, which are permanently magnetized (they don’t lose strength), are usually made of praseodymium, neodymium, samarium, and dysprosium, and can be very lightweight, small, and yet are stronger than any other type of magnet. Permanent magnets are used in wind turbines and electric vehicle motors, in addition to hundreds of other common applications. Large volumes of REEs, particularly lanthanum, are also essential for rechargeable batteries in electric or hybrid vehicles. Several REEs are also important for manufacturing nuclear fuel and control rods, while others are needed to produce petroleum.

REEs are also critical from a national security perspective, as they are used in lasers, communication and radar systems, night-vision equipment, range finders, precision-guided weapons, stealth technology, and satellites.

Tie Siding Pegmatite
Tie Siding Pegmatite. [Credit: Wayne M. Sutherland, WSGS]
REE Uses Table

REE Uses Table.

Download this table (Excel)


Patty Webber, patty.webber@wyo.gov