Materials

  • China will cut rare earths export quotas yet again

    China produces 97 percent of the world’s rare earth elements; over the last three years it has been steadily reducing the exports of these metals; the Chinese say the reason is the need for growing domestic demand; critics say that China’s goal is to undermine the high-tech sectors of Western countries’ economies; earlier this year China stopped shipping rare earths to Japan following a dispute between the two countries over a couple of small Pacific islands

  • U.S. rare Earth mine resumes active mining

    Colorado-based Molycorp resumed active mining of the rare Earth metal facility at Mountain Pass, California last week; the site had been shutdown in 2002 amid environmental concerns and the low costs for rare Earth metals provided by mining operations based in China

  • China's dominance in rare Earth elements to weaken

    China currently has a lock on the rare Earth elements market: in 2009 it provided 95 percent of the world’s supply, or 120,000 tons; other countries used to produce rare Earth elements, but environmental and economic considerations led to the near death of the industry outside of China; the growing unease with China’s dominance — and its willingness to exploit this dominance for political gain — have led to a renewed interest in reopening abandoned mines; U.S. company Molycorp has just secured the permits and funding to restart production at a mine in Mountain Pass, California, which would become the first U.S. source of rare Earth elements in more than a decade; full operations will start by the end of next year; by 2012, the revamped U.S. mine is expected to produce around 20,000 tons of rare Earth materials per year

  • DoE report warns of U.S. vulnerability to China's rare-earth supplies

    A U.S. Department of Energy report draws attention to the need to diversify the supply of rare Earth metals needed for clean technology and defense; China currently supplies 97 percent of the world’s rare Earth elements; the largest U.S. producer of rare earths last week announced a $130 million funding deal with Japanese company Sumitomo that promises the financier “substantial quantities of rare-earth products”

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  • Quake experiments may lead to sturdier buildings

    Johns Hopkins researchers will study how seismic forces affect mid-rise cold-formed steel buildings, up to nine stories high; the cold-formed steel pieces that are commonly used to frame low- and mid-rise buildings are made by bending about 1-millimeter-thick sheet metal, without heat, into structural shapes; these components are typically lighter and less expensive than traditional building systems and possess other advantages

  • New kind of blast-resistant glass -- thinner and tougher -- developed

    Current blast-resistant glass technology — the kind that protects the windows of key federal buildings, the president’s limo, and the Pope-mobile — is thicker than a 300 page novel — so thick it cannot be placed in a regular window frame; DHS-funded research develops thinner, yet tougher, glass; the secret to the design’s success is long glass fibers in the form of a woven cloth soaked with liquid plastic and bonded with adhesive

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  • Rare Earth elements in U.S. not so rare: report

    Approximately 13 million metric tons of rare Earth elements exist within known deposits in the United States, according to the first-ever nationwide estimate of these elements by the U.S. Geological Survey; despite their name, these elements are relatively common within the Earth’s crust, but because of their geochemical properties, they are not often found in economically exploitable concentrations

  • Experts: rare Earths elements headed for 2011 supply crunch

    The prices of rare-Earth elements remained static for decades due to plentiful supplies, lulling the high-tech industry into a false sense of security; this is no longer going to be the case, with a 300 percent spike in prices over the past year alone; with China currently producing 95 percent of the world’s supply. Japan, the United States, and other top consumers, however, are scrambling to find new sources

  • Purdue engineers test effects of fire on steel structures

    Building fires may reach temperatures of 1,000 degrees Celsius, or more than 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit; at that temperature, exposed steel would take about twenty-five minutes to lose about 60 percent of its strength and stiffness; Purdue researchers experiment with ways to make steel more fire-resistant

  • The U.S. rare-Earth industry can rebound -- over time

    Rare-Earth elements are not that rare; the U.S. has plenty of the metals that are critical to many green-energy technologies, but engineering and R&D expertise have moved overseas; responding to China’s near monopoly, companies in the United States and Australia are ramping up production at two rich sites for rare earths, but the process will take years

  • 9 million Euro project aims to develop stretchable electronic fabrics

    Belgian researchers are working on developing smart electronic fabrics; the project will focus on making electronic packages conformable to the properties of textiles instead of just weaving rigid electrical components into fabrics; the fabric will also feature stretchable electrical interconnections

  • Decreasing the world's rare earths dependence on China

    China has one-third of the world’s known rare Earth elements, but produces and processes 97 percent of them; to decrease dependence on China, other countries can re-start rare earths mining, while addressing the environmental issues involved; recycle used rare earths (although the recycled material cannot always replace the original minerals), and develop alternatives

  • China says it will not use rare Earth minerals as diplomatic weapon

    China has reassured the United States it has no intention of withholding rare Earth minerals (referred to as “rare earths”) from the market, the U.S. Secretary of State has said; China suspended export of the metals, key to some high-tech industries, to Japan after a diplomatic spat between the two countries

  • China to cut rare Earths minerals export by 30 percent

    China controls more than 95 percent of the global market for rare Earth elements; China has cut rare earths exports by five to 10 percent a year since 2006; China Daily reported yesterday that the government would again cut rare earths export quotas by up to 30 percent next year, “to protect the metals from over-exploitation”; critics charge China’s real goal is to cripple important industrial segments of Western economies

  • High performance materials for the tunnel of the century

    On 15 October Swiss engineers finished their work on the Gotthard Tunnel — longest rail tunnel in the world; the 57-km (35.4-mile) high-speed rail link, which will open in 2017, will form the lynchpin of a new rail network between northern and southeastern Europe and help ease congestion and pollution in the Swiss Alps