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Praseodymium and Neodymium

In the build-up to the Christmas Lectures in 2012, the Royal Institution published a new video for every day of advent revealing the elements in the periodic table that really excite and inspire people. Chemist Andrea Sella, from the University College London, picks praseodymium and neodymium as his favourite elements. He explains that neodydium is a component of the strongest magnets available, but it combines with praseodymium to form didymium, a material used by glassblowers in the lenses of their safety glasses. Andrea visits the glassblower’s department in the university to demonstrate why these coated lenses are necessary. Glass contains sodium, which vapourises when the glass is heated to produce an intense orange glare. The didymium absorbs the light produced by the sodium flare so that the glassblowers can see what they are doing.

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