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

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.

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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