Praseodymium was once included with neodymium and samarium as a single element known as didymium. Samarium was separated from didymium in 1879 and a decade later, Carl Auer Freiherr von Welsbach, an Austrian chemist, further resolved didymium into praseodymium and neodymium. Praseodymium received its name from the Greek words prasios for green and didymos for twin.
Praseodymium is a soft, silvery, lustrous element, which may be cut with a knife. It is reactive and develops a green oxide coating, which spalls off in air. It is somewhat more resistant to corrosion in air than europium, lanthanum, cerium, or neodymium. Dilute acids also attack it, and as such the metal is generally stored in an inert atmosphere or in mineral oil.
Today, praseodymium is primarily obtained through solvent extraction processing of bastnaesite ores in China.
Applications of Praseodymium:
- Materials: Praseodymium's primary use is as an alloying agent with magnesium to create high-strength metals used in aircraft engines. Praseodymium is among the most refractory substances known and is also used in automotive exhaust catalytic converters.
- Magnets: Praseodymium can be used as a substitute for neodymium in super magnets.
- Glass and Ceramics: Praseodymium is a doping agent in fibre optic cables where the cable is used as a signal amplifier. Praseodymium salts are used to give glass, enamels and cubic zirconia a yellow color. As a component of didymium, praesodymium is used to make certain types of welder's and glass blower's goggles and other UV protective glasses.
- Electronics: Praseodymium forms the core of carbon arc lights, which are used in the film industry for studio lighting and projector lights.