The Demand for Rare Earths
Virtually every electronic product we use from cell phones to coffeemakers uses some form of rare element product. In most cases, it’s built into the electronics or the motors that run these appliances. A motor made with a rare earth magnet is much more powerful than that made with a plain iron magnet. Anything that requires a small, powerful motor must use REEs.
The cost of energy is rising and so is the demand for lower cost and energy efficient solutions. Rare earths are vital to some of these new solutions; in particular, to a new magnetic refrigeration solution for office buildings that uses one-tenth the power of a standard air-conditioning unit and has fewer moving parts. This could cut energy costs in half. Smaller versions of the magnetic refrigeration unit can power a standard home refrigerator and they’re about the size of a soda can. Again, much less maintenance and much less power is required.
Neodymium, lanthanum, and dysprosium are all rare-earth metals necessary for a variety of green technologies like hybrid and electric vehicles, biofuels, and batteries. These elements have other uses in nuclear reactors, compact disks and modern medicine. Without Neodymium, hybrids and electric vehicles wouldn’t be possible.
Dysprosium has high magnetic properties and is used in the manufacture of information storage mediums like compact disks. It can be used to replace a portion of neodymium in magnets and motors, but this metal is so scarce that we would quickly run out of it. This rare-earth metal is used in nuclear reactor control rods. Without them, the world of low and zero emissions vehicles would not be possible.