Neodymium is a rare earth metal component mischmetal (mixed metal) which can be used to create powerful magnets. Neodymium magnets are the strongest known relative to their mass, with even small magnets able to support thousands of times their own weight. Although a “rare” earth metal, neodymium is widely available, leading to easily obtainable raw materials to manufacture neodymium magnets. Because of their strength, neodymium magnets are used in a broad range of applications, including jewelry, toys and computer equipment.
What Neodymium Magnets Are
Neodymium magnets, also known as NIB magnets, are measured from N24 to N55 on the magnetism scale that goes up to N64, which is a theoretical magnetism measurement. Depending on the shape, the composition, and the production method, NIB magnets can fall anywhere in this range and provide serious lifting strength.
In order to construct a neo, as they are sometimes also called, manufacturers collect rare earth metals and sift them to find usable neodymium, which they must separate from other minerals. This neodymium is ground up into a fine powder, which can then be resealed into a desired shape once combined with iron and boron. The official chemical designation of a neo is Nd2Fe14B. Due to the iron in a neo, it has properties similar to other ferromagnetic materials, including mechanical fragility. This can sometimes pose problems because the magnetic power is so great that if the neo connects too rapidly with a lot of momentum, it can chip or crack itself.
Neos are also susceptible to temperature differences and can crack or lose their magnetism in higher temperatures, usually above 176 degrees Fahrenheit. Some specialized neos work at higher temperatures, but generally above that level they fail to properly function. In cooler temperatures, neos will be fine. Because other types of magnets don’t lose their magnetism at these high temperatures, neos are often bypassed for applications that will be exposed to great amounts of heat.
Neodymium Magnet Applications
As neodymium magnets are so strong, their uses are versatile. They are produced for both commercial and industry needs. For example, something as simple as a piece of magnetic jewelry uses a neo to keep the earring in place. At the same time, neodymium magnets are being sent into space to help collect dust from the surface of Mars. Neodymium magnets’ dynamic capabilities have even lead to them being used in experimental levitation devices. In addition to these, neodymium magnets are used in such applications as welding clamps, oil filters, geocaching, mounting tools, costumes and many more.
Cautionary Procedures for Neodymium Magnets
Users of neodymium magnets must take caution when handling them. First, for everyday magnet use, it is important to monitor magnets that might be found by children. If a magnet is swallowed, it can block respiratory and digestive tracts. If more than one magnet is swallowed, they might connect and serious issues such as completely closing off the esophagus. The simple fact of having the magnet inside the body can lead ot infection as well.
Additionally, because of the extremely high magnetism of larger NIB magnets, they can literally fly across a room if ferromagnetic metals are present. Any body part caught in the path of a magnet hurtling towards an object, or an object hurtling towards a magnet, is in danger of serious danger if the pieces do fly around. Getting a finger trapped between a magnet and a table top can be enough to shatter the finger bone. And if the magnet connects to something with enough momentum and force, it can shatter, firing dangerous shrapnel that can puncture skin and bones in many directions. It is important to know what’s in your pockets and what type of equipment is present when handling these magnets.
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