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Inorganic Chemical Corner: “Element of Interest” – Cerium

Cerium is the most abundant of the rare earth elements and has numerous commercial applications.   The oxide, nitride and fluoride of Cerium have varied uses in industry.  In phosphors, Cerium is the “sensitizer”.  In catalysis, Cerium is the “stabilizer” for Alumina and enhances NOx reduction of some systems.  Cerium is also widely used as both a polishing material and as a coating material for specialty optics.  Materion continues to develop and improve compounds used for such applications.

Monazite and bastnasite are presently the two most important sources of Cerium, with large deposits found in India, Brazil and the USA. Cerium is a lustrous metal that is malleable and oxidizes readily at room temperature, especially in moist air. Like all rare-earth metals, Cerium is low to moderately toxic. While it is not radioactive, the commercial grade may contain traces of Thorium, which is radioactive. The pure metal may ignite when scratched with a knife.

Cerium was discovered in Sweden 1803 and named after the asteroid Ceres . The metal itself was too electropositive to be isolated by then-current smelting technology, a characteristic of rare earth metals in general. After the development of electrochemistry, it became easier to extract Cerium from earth sources. By the late 1950s, American Potash and Chemical Corporation of Chicago, Illinois, the largest producer of rare earth elements in the world at that time, began to sell Cerium compounds.

Today, Materion offers advanced chemical material solutions for a variety of phosphor formulations. These compounds can be utilized in high-brightness LEDs found in backlighting of flat screen TVs, computer monitors, smart phones and general illumination. It can be challenging to manufacture many of these alkali earth and rare earth nitrides and hydrides due to the nature of air and moisture sensitivity.  We have the expertise to work with these reactive materials and provide an air and moisture-free environment to produce compounds of exceptional quality.

Let Materion provide the material, service and support you need to reach your manufacturing goal.  Please visit our online catalog to view our complete line of specialty inorganic materials and watch for another “Element of Interest” in our next issue.