rare earths, in chemistry, oxides of the rare-earth metals. They were once thought to be elements themselves. They are widely distributed in the earth's crust and are fairly abundant, although they were once thought to be very scarce. Generally, the name of an earth is formed from the name of its element by replacing -um with -a ; e.g., the earth of cerium is ceria. Mixed rare earths are used in glassmaking, ceramic glazes, glass-polishing abrasives, carbon arc-light electrode cores, and catalysts for petroleum refining. Individual purified rare earths have many uses, e.g., in laser, fiber-optic transmission amplifiers, and night-vision goggles. Important rare-earth minerals include bastnasite, cerite, euxenite, gadolinite, monazite, and samarskite.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
More on rare earths from Fact Monster:
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Compounds and Elements