Why are Rare Earth Elements indispensable for technological development?
Undoubtedly, Rare Earth Elements (REE) have become one of the issues in vogue in recent months due to the so-called “trade war” between China and the United States, which has put these strategic elements at the center. They are highly demanded, their availability is scarce and in the following paragraphs we will tell you why they are indispensable for the development of technologies worldwide.
REE have become some of the most required elements when developing products such as smartphones, computers, solar panels and wind turbines, among many others, given their wide magnetic properties, their resistance to heat and their unique phosphorescence that aren’t provided by others. “This makes them non-substitutable materials in the production of certain artifacts”like those mentioned, said Tekcrispy technology site.
But that’s not all, since these minerals can also interact with others, forming materials with properties that none of the elements could offer on its own. “For example, by combining neodymium with iron and boron, one of the strongest magnets on the market is created, commonly used for the manufacture of iPhones and hard drives,” the web media added.
Along with neodymium, other rare earth elements such as terbium and dysprosium “can create super-powerful magnets with very small weights and sizes,” said MotorPasión, a motors specialized site.
“Electric motors need these magnets to work. For example, a Toyota Prius has 11 kilograms of Lanthanum and many others of neodymium distributed in various parts of the mechanics”, added the latter site.
In addition to the aforementioned elements, “Tulium is a bright silver metal quite required as a source of radiation in portable X-ray equipment and solid-state lasers. Lanthanum supports it in this sector, and is a component of the intensifying screens of the X-ray units, as well as in the generation of special glasses”, added Tekcrispy.
For all the above, rare earth elements are considered indispensable for the development of world technology, with special emphasis on consumer electronics and renewable energy.
Indispensable, but scarce
Although REE are highly demanded elements at present, their availability is scarce since there are reduced sources worldwide and they are almost 90% concentrated in China.
Given the possibility that the Asian country will reduce the supply to countries such as Japan, the United States and Germany, recognized producers of technology, many countries have explored within their borders the existence of these strategic minerals.
In this context, in 2011 Chile began the search for REE through BioLantanidos, the first project of its kind in the country, which is currently under environmental evaluation for the development of its first commercial plant.
BioLantanidos will develop an REE extraction plant in the Biobio Region that will operate based on high environmental standards, contributing to the development of the region and the country in a responsible way with both the environment and communities.