You may be familiar with neodymium magnets - and you might even be making use of them in your everyday life. However, there's a lot you probably don't know about this mysterious material.

Also known as rare earth magnets, their unique properties have enabled them to revolutionize the functionality of everything from car motors to computer hard drives. So what makes these magnets so special, and what are they capable of? Here are just a few interesting pieces of information about these powerful objects:

Basic facts

  • The elements neodymium and praseodymium were discovered at the exact same time by the chemist Baron Carl Auer von Welsbach at the Vienna Academy of Sciences in 1885.
  • The name neodymium comes from the Greek neos didumous, which means "new twin."
  • Neodymium magnets are actually made from an alloy of neodymium, boron and iron. This allows them to simultaneously store impressive amounts of magnetic energy while being highly resistant to demagnetization.
  • Due to the fact that iron oxidizes quickly, neodymium magnets are coated to prevent rust from accumulating.
  • NdFeB permanent magnets are the strongest in the entire world. In fact, even a thumbnail sized disc magnet cannot be moved from a refrigerator by hand.
  • The attraction between two neodymium magnets is so strong that if placed close enough together, they can collide and shatter.
  • Neodymium magnets have an unusually high temperature resistance, and they can even withstand heat exceeding 200 degrees Celsius.

Fascinating uses

  • Wind turbine generators depend on neodymium-iron-boron magnets to produce electricity.
  • Hybrid and electric vehicles often use high-strength neodymium magnets to power their DC motors.
  • When you switch your cell phone to vibrate mode, the rapid movement and corresponding sound that results is caused by a miniature neodymium magnet inside the device.
  • State-of-the-art audio headphones and speakers contain neodymium magnets, which enable improved sound quality as well as a full spectrum of bass.
  • A lot of medical technology relies on neodymium magnets. For example, these magnets are an essential component of MRI scanners' ability to achieve an internal view of the human body without radiation.
  • The magnetic separators that are used in the recycling and waste removal processes are typically of the neodymium variety. Additionally, neodymium magnets are best for removing ferrous particles in the industrial processing chain.
  • While years ago, nearly all television sets utilized cathode ray technology, newer models leveraged neodymium magnets to enhance the image quality by redirecting electrons toward the screen.