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Chemical element, a rare earth metal of the lanthanide series (hence having many properties of the transition elements), chemical symbol Ce, atomic number 58. It is iron-gray and fairly soft and ductile. Found in many ores, it is about as abundant as copper and three times as abundant as lead. The metal is used in alloys and other metallurgical applications and (because it oxidizes strongly and rapidly) in illumination, ignition, and signaling devices and in propellants. Misch metal, used in lighter flints, is 50% cerium. Cerium compounds (in which it has valence 3 or 4) are used in the mantles of lanterns, in the ceramic, photographic, and textile industries, and in analytical chemistry.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on cerium, visit Britannica.com.