Rare earth elements have transformed industry and consumer products. Smartphones and highly efficient jet engines, among other products, have become dependent upon hard to extract elements, almost all of which are exported from China.
This presents industry with very real problems. Not only are profitable reserves dwindling but supply is determined by the Chinese government, leaving many industries exposed.
However, alternative materials are being developed; recycling is becoming relevant; and means of not using rare elements are entering mainstream production. Despite the problems associated with rare earth elements, industry is undergoing substantial changes to solve the difficulties, heralding new and innovative ideas.
Higher demand is causing industry to find means of improving the security of supply, and several methods have emerged to help.
Now that is changing: industry is waking up to the benefits on offer to product disassembly. However, even successful efforts so far remain small in scale compared to the extent of consumption.
Big shifts in rare earth element use are emerging due to the development of substitute materials. Still in infancy, substitutes to metals such as indium are gradually creating possibilities that industry will be able to radically reduce consumption of these materials over the coming years.
- Explores the impact of rare earth elements on industry
- Analyses overdependence of rare elements across major industries
- Looks at the development of substitute materials
- Assesses the impact of geopolitics on rare elements
- Examines developments in recycling of rare earth elements
- What progress has been made towards substitute materials?
- Can recycling have a major role to play in recovering rare elements?
- Can industry become less dependent upon rare earth elements?
- Will efforts to not use rare earth elements prove successful?
Rare Earth Elements in demand causing industry to seek improved security
Rare earth elements are now critical to high-tech manufacturing, increasing dependence
Industry is seeking to improve security and partnerships with mining companies
Car industry racing to improve security of rare earth element supply as electric era dawns
Industry expands usage of rare earth elements, creating future problems
Demand in developing countries to raise competition for rare earth elements to new levels
Global air travel places greater strain on rhenium supplies as China catches up in jet engine manufacturing
Renewable energy continues to exhibit high dependency on rare earth elements
Recycling is a major development goal for users of rare earth elements
Apple is beginning to recycle and redesign, but progress has so far been limited
Recycling techniques for rare earth elements are improving at considerable speed
An end to shredding electronic devices is essential for recycling progress
Potential replacements to rare earth elements are emerging
Alternatives to touch-screens are being developed, placing pressure on traditional production methods
New electric motors free of rare earth elements are moving towards mainstream use
New materials offer promise in race to substitute rare earth elements
Geopolitics of rare earth elements is propelling substitute development
Chinese domination in ‘soft monopoly’ creates need for substitutes
Territorial disputes could become more common in wake of deposit discoveries
Role of rare earth elements in global industries is experiencing rapid developments
Ask the analyst
About the Author
List of Tables
Table 1: Top ten metal and mining industry values, 2016 ($bn)
List of Figures
Figure 1: Number of smartphones in use in China (millions) 2011 to 2016
Figure 2: Global precious metal production 2010 to 2016 (tons)
Figure 3: Global sales of hybrid and electric cars 2009 to 2016 (millions of vehicles)
Figure 4: Global number of smartphones 2012 to 2016 (millions)
Figure 5: Global renewable energy generation 2010 to 2016 (TWh)
Figure 6: Sales revenue of Apple iPhone ($m) 2010 to 2017
Figure 7: China, volume of waste (millions of tons) 2009 to 2016
Figure 8: Google, Project Soli concept
Figure 9: Honda Freed
Figure 10: Artist impression of graphene18
Figure 11: Disputed Kuril Islands/Northern Territories