(Gr. prasios, green, and didymos, twin) In 1841 Mosander extracted the rare earth didymia from lanthana; in 1879, Lecoq de Boisbaudran isolated a new earth, samaria, from didymia obtained from the mineral samarskite. Six years later, in 1885, von Welsbach separated didymia into two others, praseodymia and neodymia, which gave salts of different colors. As with other rare earths, compounds of these elements in solution have distinctive sharp spectral absorption bands or lines, some of which are only a few Angstroms wide.
The element occurs along with other rare-earth elements in a variety of minerals. Monazite and bastnasite are the two principal commercial sources of the rare-earth metals. It was prepared in relatively pure form in 1931.
Ion-exchange and solvent extraction techniques have led to much easier isolation of the rare earths and the cost has dropped greatly in the past few years. Praseodymium can be prepared by several methods, such as by calcium reduction of the anhydrous chloride of fluoride.
Misch metal, used in making cigarette lighters, contains about 5% praseodymium metal. The rare-earth oxides, including Pr2O3 are among the most refractory substances known. Along with other rare earths, it is widely used as a core material for carbon arcs used by the motion picture industry for studio lighting and projection. Salts of praseodymium are used to color glasses and enamels; when mixed with certain other materials, praseodymium produces an intense and unusually clean yellow color in glass. Didymium glass, of which praseodymium is a component, is a colorant for welders goggles.
Praseodymium is soft, silvery, malleable, and ductile. It is somewhat more resistant to corrosion in air than europium, lanthanum, cerium, or neodymium, but it does develop a green oxide coating that spalls off when exposed to air. As with other rare-earth metals, it should be kept under a light mineral oil or sealed in plastic.
The metal (99%+ pure) is priced at about $70/oz.