Rare Earth Elements Research Institute (NATEN) was established to provide the necessary scientific environment for research and development activities in different fields for the production and development of new technological products. In addition to these NATEN makes coordinates and contributes to scientific researches by collaborating with public institutions and organizations, universities and industrialists which use rare earth elements (REE) and its products and research in this field. NATEN continues to carry out its activities as TENMAK NATEN under the roof of TENMAK, with the Presidential Decree No. 57 published in the Official Gazette dated 28/03/2020 and numbered 31082.
TENMAK NATEN constitutes the necessary information for the short, medium and long term policies and strategies of our country on rare earth elements and other critical elements. NATEN aims to obtain REE and other critical elements, develops products and technologies related to these elements. In addition to these, NATEN conducts research in order to ensure the wide use of these elements in advanced technological products.
Rare Earth Element
Rare Earth Elements (REEs) are the elements composing of lanthanides whose atomic numbers range from 57 to 71 in the periodic table (lanthanum, cerium, praseodymium, neodymium, promethium, samarium, europium, gadolinium, terbium, dysprosium, holmium, erbium, thulium, ytterbium and lutetium) and the elements scandium with atomic number 21, and yttrium with atomic number 39, which have similar chemical properties and are usually found together with lanthanides in nature.
Due to their generally soft and easily moldable structural properties, REEs are reactant. They are bright, iron gray and silver in color. These elements have idiosyncratic magnetic and optical properties. REEs are divided into two categories as light and heavy. Light rare earths (LREs) are the elements having atomic numbers 57-64 including scandium whereas the elements having atomic numbers 65-71 including yttrium are classified as heavy rare earths (HREs).
Since they are usually found as oxide components in nature, which is not a common situation, they could not be grouped for a long time and because of that they are called rare although these elements are relatively abundant in the Earth’s crust.
Other elements having critical significance in the fields of space technology, aviation, high-energy physics, energy storage, nuclear energy and most of the high technology products are also in the scope of research studies of NATEN.
General Usage Areas
REEs increase resistance of materials to heat, abrasion and corrosion, and make them lighter. Due to these properties, they are often preferred for advanced technology products, and they are valued as essential and strategic elements. REEs are used in many fields such as health services, defense industry, clean energy and telecommunication systems. Their usage is essential in mobile phones, laptops, television screens, modern medical devices, batteries, camera lenses, bulbs, X-ray machines, fiber optic cables, hybrid vehicles, aircraft engines, missile control systems, lasers, ceramic, glass, wind turbines and solar panels.
Due to its resistance-boosting property, scandium is critical in strengthening light alloys. It is particularly used in the aviation sector to obtain light and durable fighter aircraft parts. It is also functional as light source in high efficiency lamps such as stadium lighting and the element is preferred as catalyst in ceramic production. This element is used as tracing agent in oil refineries. Moreover, scandium is used in many other fields such as alkaline batteries, fuel and exhaust systems, engine parts, gun making, sports equipment, bicycle frames and parts, protective paints, insecticides and plant seed germination.
Yttrium, which is mostly used in television screens, is also employed in cancer treatment. Lasers with yttrium are preferred in cutting metals. Yttrium is also used in various other areas such as microwave devices, fuel cells, communication systems, radars, sparking plugs, resistant glass, LCD and LED screens and monitors, energy saving lamps, optical glasses, video camera and camera lenses, medical needles and synthetic stones.
Lanthanum is used in flint production, utilized in film and studio lighting, carbon-based lighting systems such as projectors and it serves a critical function in the production of camera and telescope glasses and hybrid vehicle batteries. Moreover, it is preferred in special optical glass production, energy storage systems and granulose cast iron formation. It is also found in many other products such as oil refining catalysts, battery electrodes, night vision goggles, catalytic converters, vacuum tubes, and special glasses and lenses.
Cerium is an element that increases alloys’ heat resistance and is employed in production of flint, fluorescent lamps and bulbs, polishing glass surfaces, and television screens. It is used as deoxidizer in vacuum tubes and helps to reduce exhaust gas emissions. Cerium is also utilized in many other products such as magnetic optical compact disks, projectors, energy saving bulbs and incandescent lamps as well as chrome plating and porcelain coating, stainless steel and jet engine alloys.
Praseodymium is used in glass polishing, and coloring products such as glass, ceramic and enamel to make them yellow. It increases the resistance and durability of strong magnets and is preferred in carbon arc lamp cores and studio lighting. It is also used as signal amplifier in fiber optic cables, hybrid car engines, wind turbine engines, generators, and plane alloys. Praseodymium is utilized in many other products such as lasers, fluorescent and energy saving lamps, television screens, welding and glass processing goggles and earth magnets.
It is an essential element for strong magnet production. Neodymium is prominent in the production of high power infrared green lasers used in optic and cosmetic surgery as well as in the treatment of skin cancers. The element, which is employed for coloring glass, is also used to determine the age of meteorites and rocks. Moreover, neodymium is utilized in many other products such as distance measuring devices, astronomical filters, glass and welding production goggles and rear view mirrors.
Promethium, which is generally used in scientific researches, functions as a beta source in element thickness gauges. It is also utilized in the production of shiny materials since it strengthens light cells. While standing out as an additional heat source in spacecrafts and satellites, promethium is used in various products such as radiation measurement devices, guided missiles, nuclear batteries, atomic-powered cardiac pacemakers, and solar cells.
Samarium, which is preferred in normal and permanent magnets due to its magnetic property, is also used in lighting systems. This element is utilized in the treatment of certain cancers and it also functions as a powerful neutron absorber in nuclear reactor control rods. Additionally, it is used in many other fields such as ceramics, glasses, precision-guided weapons, radioactive dating practices, X-ray lasers, electric instruments, headphones, and magnetic pickups.
Europium, which functions as an activator in fluorescence and television screens, is preferred in nuclear reactor control rods. The element is also used in lasers, euro banknotes, fluorescence glasses, vapor lamps, optic monitors, quantum memory chips, and oxide coating.
Gadolinium, which functions as a drug component for increasing resolution in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) systems, is used in nuclear reactor control rods. Because of its magnetic property, it functions effectively in permanent magnets, CDs, computer hard disks and chips. Gadolinium is also used in various fields such as ceramics, optic glasses, microwaves, cameras, fluorescent lamps, and magnetic refrigeration devices.
Terbium, which is utilized in sensitive fluorometers, is an element used in fuel cells, and electric motors of wind turbines because of its heat-resistant structure. It is frequently preferred in biological and medical researches, and also functions in early diagnosis and treatment of certain diseases. It has a very broad area of usage, including laser light production, marking of euro banknotes, monitors, fluorescent and mercury lamps, X-ray device and mobile phone screens, pressure sensors, marine sonar systems, and cathode ray tubes.
Dysprosium, which is utilized in the manufacturing of nuclear reactor control rods and for neutron absorption in nuclear plants, functions as a contrast agent in MRI systems. It is also used in many other fields such as high resistance permanent magnets, laser making, CD and DVD coatings, and detection of radiation effects.
Holmium, which is used as a magnetic pole component due to its high magneticresistance, is preferred in glass coloring, nuclear physics experiments, fiber optic practices, electronic devices, and precision radar systems. Moreover, holmium lasers are widely used in various medical applications such as the treatment of urologic and periodontal diseases, and prevention of abnormal eye pressure.
Erbium, which is widely used in fiber optic cables and in medical lasers, is utilized in neutron absorbing control rods in nuclear plants. The element is employed in coloring glasses, sunglasses, porcelain enamels and artificial gemstones. It is also used in many other products such as photographic filters, glass processing and welding goggles, infrared absorption glass and in telecommunication practices.
Thulium, which is employed in surgical lasers that function effectively in the treatment of skin diseases and in the field of medical aesthetics, is also used in small X-ray devices and for distinguishing counterfeit euro banknotes. The element is preferred in various fields such as microwave ovens, superconductors, meteorology devices, radiography, and military practices.
Ytterbium, which is utilized in mobile radiation sources, functions as a durability agent in stainless steel alloy. It is a good catalyst in organic chemistry. The element is used in pressure gauges for monitoring earthquake-related ground deformations and oil exploration operations. Ytterbium is functional in many other fields such as lasers, nuclear medicine, optic watches, banknotes, fiber optic cables, and inks.
Lutetium, which has a wide area of usage in nuclear medicine, is an element employed in cancer treatment, and tomographs. It is frequently used in meteorological measurement devices, determining the age of meteorites, resolving hydrocarbons in oil refineries, high technology integrated circuits, hard disks and memory devices, LED bulbs, and drilling practices.
Although rare earth elements (REE) or rare earth oxides are called rare, they are existed in the content with different proportions of more than 160 minerals in the earth's crust. Bastnasite, Monazite and Xenotime are the three prominent minerals in REE production and 95% of REE production in the world is generated from these three minerals. According to the latest data, there are 121 million tons of REE reserves in the world. About 44 million tons (36 %) of this reserve exist in China, 22 million tons (18 %) in Brazil, 22 million tons (18 %) in Vietnam, approximately 18 million tons (15 %) in Russia. In 2020, 248.000 tons of REE minerals were produced all over the world and 140.000 tons of this amount was produced by the People's Republic of China. According to distribution of REE production China takes the lead in production of REE, followed by USA, Australia, Russia, India and Brazil. The People's Republic of China leads the consumption of rare earth elements, followed by Japan, the United States, Germany and France. Projections indicate that the demand for rare earth elements will increase in the world and there will be also raise in REE production
Although China is a country that dominates REE raw material production, the worldwide REE raw material markets are complex due to the variability of ores and products. In addition, REE facilities in various countries import ores for production of REE-bear materials. Although France and Japan do not have any REE reserves and raw materials, they are among the leading manufacturer of processed REE products. The main source of REE ores is in China. The main source of REE ores is China, smaller quantities are existed in the USA, Australia, Brazil, Russia, India, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam. China, Japan and France are among the leading countries in the production of REE added advanced materials. Some raw materials are considered as critical raw materials according to their supply risk and economy importance (EU commission 2020 report). REEs are at the top of the critical raw materials. Political and strategic conflicts between countries bring about great risks in the supply chain of REEs. However, the demand for REEs, which are used in many sectors, is constantly increasing depending on current and new technological developments. It is predicted that the world's annual REE demand will be 220.000 tons in 2025 and 350.000 tons in 2035. If new REE ore resources cannot be explored, it is forecasted that there will be supply shortages in some REEs. On the other hand, due to the strategic evaluation of REEs, countries do not clearly share their reserve information and forward-looking projections regarding with REE.
In our country, REE reserves were determined in Eskişehir-Beylikova, Malatya-Kuluncak, Sivas and Burdur with the researches conducted by the General Directorate of Mineral Research and Exploration. The reserve with 3.14% grade of bastnasite in Eskişehir-Beylikova is approximately 52 million tons.
In addition to these, potential REE reserves have been identified in Isparta, Sofular and Kayseri Incesu regions, It is also possible that REEs can be recovered from secondary sources such as coal reserves and ashes, wastes from mineral process facilities and electronic wastes.