Mischmetal cylinders

Mischmetal cylinders

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This image is part of the feature Race for Rare Earth Metals

Credit: SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: Mischmetal cylinders. This alloy is a mixture of the lanthanides (rare earth metals) cerium (Ce) and lanthanum (La). Small amounts of two other lanthanides, neodymium (Nd) and praseodymium (Pr), are also present. This alloy is used in 'flint' ignition devices, where it is combined with iron and magnesium oxides to harden it. Cerium is the main component, and the final product is usually called ferrocerium. Striking this hardened artificial 'flint' against a rough surface produces high-temperature sparks. This man-made material has largely replaced use of natural flint (a form of quartz), as the sparks produced are much hotter.

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