Rare-earth minerals are a bunch of pesky substances that are paramount in many applications – the most important of which, by TPU readers’ and news editors’ standards, is the enablement of high-tech circuits and applications. Located on the seabed of Japan’s shores, in a roughly 965-square-mile Pacific Ocean seabed near Minamitorishima Island, the deposits contain more than 16 million tons of rare-earth oxides, according to a study published in Nature Publishing Group’s Scientific Reports.
That’s equivalent, researchers say, to 780 years’ worth of yttrium supply (used for LEDs, phosphors, electrodes, superconductors…), 620 years of europium (used as dopant in lasers, or as a red phosphor in television sets and fluorescent lamps), 420 years of terbium (used in solid state devices and fuel cells) and 730 years of dysprosium (used for its high thermal neutron absorption in nuclear reactors’ control rods, of all things). That’s why they’re ailing this a “semi-infinite” trove of rare-earth materials.
Calling something infinite is already debatable enough, but semi-infinite almost reaches that point – that’s true, surely, considering our own life expectancy and the amount of rare-metals we use today, but I’d think we as a species would love to be here for more than some mere 420 years. The discovery should at least bring some more competitive pricing to the rare-earth materials market, though, which was seemingly cornered (and still is, until Japan can actually get to those resources, which won’t be easy) by the world’s greatest supplier, China, who increased prices ten-fold. A consortium of Japanese government-backed entities, companies and researchers plans to conduct an extraction feasibility test within the next five years. Sources: The tremendous potential of deep- sea mud as a source of rare-earth elements – Nature, via CNBC https://www.techpowerup.com/rss/news