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The rare earth blues

At this week’s enormous materials science meeting in Boston, Massachusetts, there are scores of talks and posters dealing with the – the fifteen lanthanides, across the bottom of the periodic table, plus scandium and yttrium – which are used in everything from mobile phones to powerful magnets and lasers. But while scientists like those at the Materials Research Society (MRS) event are busily manipulating these atoms, the world has been fretting over their availability.

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