Today’s Green Technology

periodic-tableBrian Alers CPG, Nederland.  In many ways, Rare Earth Elements (REEs) are the silent providers of today’s green technology. The REEs are a forgotten set of 17 related metals from the lower line of the periodic table that have become an essential component of a variety of products that are crucial to the way we live in the 21st century.

The world’s strongest permanent magnets are primarily made out of Rare Earth Elements (REEs). Every cell phone and computer contains small REE magnets. REEs are used in the new energy efficient fluorescent lamps, televisions, and computer display panels (LEDS, Plasma, LCDS), as well as X-ray and MRI scanning systems.

Each 2 megawatt (MW) wind turbine contains something like 800 pounds of neodymium (Nd) and 130 pounds of dysprosium (Dy). Every Toyota Prius hybrid rechargeable car battery contains about 10 pounds of lanthanum (La).

Neodynium (Nd), Samarium (Sm) and Paraseodymium (Pr) magnets are used to make the world’s strongest permanent magnets, and Dysposium (Dy) and Terbium (Tb) allow the magnets to operate at higher temperatures. These powerful magnets are considerably smaller and lighter in weight than typical iron magnets.  They are also used in computer hard drives and loudspeakers.

Europium (Er), Terbium (Tb) and Yttrium (Yt) are used to color visual displays in television, phone, and computer devices.

Lanthanum (La) is used in the nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) rechargeable batteries used in hybrid automobiles and they typically contain about 26% Lanthanum. Lanthanum is also used in camera and telescope lenses and is used extensively in studio lighting and cinema projection applications.

Cerium (Ce) is used in automobile catalytic converters that reduce the toxicity of emissions. Holmium (Ho) is used in magnets and as a yellow or red coloring for glass and cubic zirconia.

The increased demand for REEs worldwide has led to much higher prices for REE ore. The global monopoly of REE production from China (97% of worldwide mining in 2011) has led the U.S. Geological Survey and the European Union to rank REEs as the mineral raw materials of highest critical concern on the basis of uncertain future supply and importance to advancing technologies.

This is just another example of the need for modern mining in the United States. How green is it to allow unregulated pollution in other countries (China) when the same elements could be attained from an EPA-permitted mine in the United States. For example, Rare Element Resources is planning on opening the Bear Lodge REE mine in southeastern Wyoming next year and the mine is planning on being a zero discharge facility.