analysis: search for rare earth substitutes gathers pace
As automakers, lighting companies and cleaning technology developers seek to reduce their reliance on thin and unreliable supplies of raw materials, the momentum for finding alternatives to rare earth minerals is growing.
Everything from Apple\'s iphone to energy contains rare earths.
Last year, high-efficiency lighting and wind turbines received global attention as China, which accounts for more than 90% of global supply, repeatedly restricted exports.
Prices of individual oxides, alloys and metals have soared.
Power automobile industry of world automobile industry
Scale ambitions are leading efforts to find alternatives to rare earths, or at least to curb reliance on them, although prices have fallen from record levels last year.
GM, the manufacturer of Chevrolet Volt, said it was about to make a breakthrough to reduce demand for rare earths, a rare earth in particularly high demand.
Magnets are the reason for making the motor rotate, and the sturdy and durable permanent magnets used in many electric and hybrid cars are made of rare earth nd and rare earth elements are added to ensure high temperature performance.
While rare earths may be ideal for performance, automakers must plan for a few years and do not want to rely almost entirely on China to provide critical raw materials.
\"The problem for them is not necessarily the price,\" said Jon Hykawy, a clean technology and materials analyst at Byron Capital Markets.
\"The problem they are facing is the availability and security of the supply.
\"The price of dy oxide was from an average of $229 1 kg in 2010 to an average of $1,454 in 2011, according to dunti Securities.
The elements made and named \"hard\", in Greece, go now for about $1,000 1 kg.
Wang Yucong, manager of GM\'s materials technology department, said GM is considering reducing the overall use of rare earths by eventually replacing permanent magnet motors, but it will take time.
\"We know that the permanent magnet is still the best magnet and we want to use (them),” he said.
\"But, from a material point of view, how can we reduce the use of rare earths?
GM is not the only one.
Japanese media reported that Toyota has found a way to produce electric vehicles that do not contain rare earth, while Renault has begun to produce electric vehicles that do not require permanent magnets.
Two months ago, Hitachi released a motor that does not require rare earth at all, but will not be put into commercial production within two years.
Automakers are also rethinking other design elements, such as small electric motors that move seats and mirrors, to see if they can be made with fewer rare earths, or no rare earths at all.
Bob Wolf, sales director of magnet supplier Alliance Co. , Ltd. , counted more than 100 permanent magnet applications in modern cars.
Coaster is a boon for manufacturers of rare earth alternatives like Nano Systems, which produce rare earth
Free backlight technology for display and handheld devices.
Nanosys has reached a licensing agreement with Samsung, the monitor manufacturer who is also an investor, and a commercial agreement with LG.
Jason harlov, CEO of Nanosys, said that even in less time
Inflated rare earth prices, the cost of manufacturing light rare earthLEDs (LED)
Products using rare earth y are twice as good as nano system lighting products
Once the led is competitive in price, it is expected to eventually replace the standard bulb.
\"We have the ambition to move into general lighting, probably next year or so,\" said hatlov . \" Supporters of the company include Germany\'s Nanostart AG.
Among the larger competitors, Philips said in April that it was developing technology to \"significantly reduce\" its reliance on rare earths in LED production.
Doug Jackson said China\'s rare earth magnets were so rich a few years ago that they were used for wallet buckles, but once the price soared everything stopped, senior vice president of business development in the USS.
Rare earth mining company
Demand for cleaning
According to US data, energy technologies such as wind turbines could double global demand for rare earths by 2025. S.
The Department of Energy has been reviewing the rare earth market for two years.
Given the supply shortage, Molycorp invested in Boulder wind power last year and Boulder Wind power is a turbine manufacturer without rare earths, even though they use fewer others-
\"We think their technology will accelerate the development of permanent magnet generators,\" Jackson said . \".