Are rare earth elements used in alloys?

20 May 2012

Question

Do rare earth metals get used in alloys? Given their high price, I’d assume not.

Answer

Nick - Rare earth elements are just a certain part of the periodic table. It's just a group of elements and some of them, such as Yttrium and Lanthanum, do find some small percentage uses in some modern alloys but as you say, there's no large scale use of them, just due to their high cost.

Ben - Roger, when you're designing new alloys or when you're modelling them, do you work around the cost? Are there ways that you can replace things that rare earth elements would otherwise do?

Roger - Yes, it's certainly true that we consider the cost because certain elements, like rhenium for example in turbine blade alloys, are now very expensive, several thousand pounds per kilogram. When one is interested in building a jet engine with perhaps 100 blades per row then the cost can become significant quite quickly. So certainly, there are calculations done to trade off the relative benefits of elements like rhenium and tungsten, and molybdenum and other refractory metals against their disadvantages which are then costs and also their scarcity.

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