Monday, October 25, 2010

#MATERIALS: "Rare earth supply chain: Industry’s common cause"

Rare earths—minerals, metals and their oxides—have been a looming problem for several years but became a political football recently when China reduced its export quotas for the second half. Look for new mines to be dug worldwide over the next five years, but it will take as long as a decade to establish supply chains of rare earths that are completely independent of China, giving it a virtual monopoly until then. RColinJohnson, Kyoto Prize Fellow @NextGenLog

Hybrid automobiles make use of rare earths in almost every major subsystem. 
Here is what EETimes says about rare earths: Jittery markets have responded [to Chinese export quotas] by upping already rising prices for rare earths, and manufacturers with strategic stockpiles have begun tactical hoarding, a move that analysts warn could drive prices even higher. The cost of rare earths hasn’t yet had much of an impact on the pricing of electronic components that use them. But observers see impending shortages for the rare earths used to make the super-strong magnets designed into everything from hard drive heads to smart bombs, the phosphors used in many LEDs and fluorescent lamps, the slurries used for semiconductor polishing, the dopants sometimes used in optical components such as lasers, the magnetic films used for spin-polarized memories and the oxides used in advanced high-k dielectrics. Stepped-up mining operations and accelerated manufacturing schedules in Africa, Australia, Canada, Malaysia, the United States, Vietnam and elsewhere could provide supply-chain alternatives to China, which controls more than 95 percent of the world’s rare earths...
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