Companies may be able to plug holes in supply chains disrupted by the new coronavirus infections paralyzing Chinese production, but there are some commodities virtually only China can supply: rare earths. Marcy Kreiter
As the world looks to seriously curb its greenhouse gas emissions to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, electric vehicles are seen as one of the best solutions, with new state incentives set to encourage more drivers to make the switch. Samantha Wohlfeil
Mica is the name applied to a group of minerals that form in layers at once flexible and strong. A longtime staple of the cosmetics industry, mica is known for adding sparkle to makeup products and paints. But it’s also prized in the electronics and automotive worlds due to its ability to transmit electric force without overheating, even under extreme temperatures. NBC News reports from the Mica mines of Madagascar, where child labor and unsafe working conditions are the norm. NBC News
The demand for cobalt continues to grow as companies worldwide keep innovating. Despite the efforts of many organizations to put an end to child labor and unsafe conditions in Congolese cobalt mines, these issues persist. Industry experts expect to see 2020 demand reach 120,000 tons per year. In February 2018, cobalt prices were more than 150 percent higher than the previous year. The Washington Post
Based on an analysis using multiple criteria explained below, 35 minerals or mineral material groups have been identified that are currently (February 2018) considered critical. Draft Critical Mineral List—Summary of Methodology and Background Information—U.S. Geological Survey Technical Input Document in Response to Secretarial Order No. 3359
From the Stone Age to the present, mineral commodities have been essential ingredients for building and advancing civilization. Products built with materials derived from mineral resources include homes and office buildings; cars and roads; computers, televisions, and smartphones; and jet fighters and other military hardware needed to defend the Nation. In short, minerals are essential to advance and protect modern society.
Sunlight is by far the most plentiful renewable energy resource, providing Earth with enough power to meet all of humanity’s needs several hundred times over. However, it is both diffuse and intermittent, which presents problems regarding how best to harvest this energy and store it for times when the sun is not shining. This review investigates progress towards such electrocatalysts, with special emphasis on how they might be incorporated into photoelectrocatalytic water-splitting systems and the challenges that remain in developing these devices.
This article provides a comprehensive review of electrical energy storage technologies, materials and systems, and recent advances as well as challenges yet to overcome.
With the explosive growth in intermittent renewable resources and energy demand, it is important to figure out ways to develop suitable electrical energy storage technologies to fully address the widely varying needs for large-scale electrical storage.
Examples of recent success in using earth-abundant materials for other electrochemical energy applications can be found in the paper.
Life Cycle Assessment of Metals: A Scientific Synthesis. We have assembled extensive information on the cradle-to-gate environmental burdens of 63 metals in their major use forms, and illustrated the interconnectedness of metal production systems. Related cumulative energy use, global warming potential, human health implications and ecosystem damage are estimated by metal life cycle stage (i.e., mining, purification, and refining). Philip Nuss, Matthew J. Eckelman, Plos.org
Resources Policy Like many other low-carbon energy technologies, wind energy is currently at risk due to potential bottlenecks in its dependence on critical rare earth elements such as Nd, Pr, Dy, and Tb, which are used in permanent magnet synchronous generators.
This paper evaluates up-to-date substitution ideas for meeting a projected estimation of increase in total annual demand for rare earths, which is 1.7 times from 2015 to 2020.