Rare earths are the backbone of many of the devices we use on a daily basis, as well as the technologies that are already contributing to the health of our planet. Rare earths affect many areas of our everyday lives.
Rapid global industrialisation and population growth has placed increased pressure on the availability of raw materials.
Because of their specific optical, magnetic and catalytic properties, rare earths are used in a variety of applications:
- Industrial processes: petroleum catalytic cracking, chemical catalysis
- Glass manufacturing: polishing, UV absorption, refractive index improvement
- Automotive emission control: catalytic convertors
- Energy storage: NiMH batteries
- Energy efficient electrical motors: rare earth permanent magnets enabling lighter and more efficient motors
- Special steel alloys: lighter and less brittle
- Electronics: semi-conductors manufacturing, micro-motors for computers and servers hard disks, acoustic devices including earphones and high quality speakers, and micro-capacitors used in many electronic devices
- Lighting: energy efficient fluorescent lamps
- Medical: PET scanners, MRI
- Plus a number of new applications under development
Many scientists believe that global warming is caused by a human-driven increase in greenhouse gases and their impact on the earth’s atmosphere. With our society becoming more aware of the part we have to play in addressing global warming, governments of today are now legislating higher environmental and lower emission standards in both domestic and industrial settings. Rare earths are playing a pivotal role in greenhouse gas reduction through their unique application in automotive catalytic converters, hybrid vehicles, wind turbines, and energy efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs.
Increased population and economic growth has placed even greater demand on the world’s energy resources. Rare earths are helping conserve our limited fossil fuel reserves by making us all more energy efficient. From vehicle catalytic converters, hybrid cars, and compact fluorescent light bulbs through to fluid cracking catalysts used by the oil industry, rare earths are a key enabler for the development of energy saving technologies.
The digital era has continued to develop at a rapid pace over the past decade. Whether at work, home, or play, people want to be able to access today’s digital technologies at the press of a button. Rare earths have been key to these products becoming faster, lighter, and more efficient.