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Rare Earth Elements: Not as Rare as You Thought

Rare EarthWhat are rare earth elements (REE), you might ask? According to the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC), REEs include the lanthanide series elements plus two bonus elements (yttrium and scandium). Although they are considered rare, REEs exist “hidden” in water and solid materials all around us. Brooks Applied Labs (BAL) has developed analytical methods to support not just trace, but ultra-trace quantitation of REEs using column chelation paired with inductively coupled plasma triple quadrupole mass spectrometry (CC-ICP-QQQ-MS). Partnering with BAL to take advantage of our advanced analytical techniques allows our clients to confidently capture data in parts-per-quadrillion units of pg/L (that’s right, picograms!).

Analytical data for REEs at these low levels supports studies related to environmental forensics, phytotoxicity, change control for chemically defined media, and hydrological movement of contaminants and tracers.

We may not see REEs around us, but they are present in lasers, magnets, capacitors, superconductors, and much more! Although industrial applications for the use of REEs have expanded in the past half a century, regulations have not kept up.  Few, if any, regulations exist associated with REEs. Many studies focused on the uptake and effects of REEs in agricultural crops and other plants have been performed (e.g., Carpenter et. al. 2015 and Allison et. al. 2015), and these studies have concluded that REEs can have a negative impact on the viability of crops and health of the vegetative ecosystem around us.

Being experts in mass spectrometry provides BAL scientists the tools to develop novel and, most importantly, applicable analytical technologies to support both industrial applications as well as protecting our environment for future generations. Please contact us if you’d like to receive more information regarding the articles referenced above or to discuss how analysis of low-level REEs can support your upcoming projects.