Top 5 'rare earth' minerals: What are they?

The so-called 'rare earths' are neither rare nor does China have a lock on them. The following five rare earth elements are used in daily life.

1. Erbium

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    A fiber optic cable carrying 96 strands of optical fiber capable of transmitting voice and data, is a typical type of cabling that technicians install underground. They commonly use the rare earth element of erbium.
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Erbium (atomic no. 68) brings you Dancing With the Stars. Really.

The element is essential in fiber-optic telecommunication cables, which bring cable television and Internet to your homes and apartments.

According to the US Geological Survey, "fiber-optic cables can transmit signals over long distances because they incorporate periodically spaced lengths of erbium-doped fiber that function as laser amplifiers. Er is used in these laser repeaters, despite its high cost (approximately $700/kg), because it alone possesses the required optical properties."

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