Materials

  • 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

  • Geologists warn of warming-induced landslides flattening cities

    There are 39 cities around the world with populations greater than 100,000 — and an untold number of smaller towns and villages — which are situated within 100 kilometers of a volcano that has collapsed in the past and which may, therefore, be capable of collapsing in the future; thinning glaciers on volcanoes could destabilize vast chunks of summit cones, triggering mega-landslides capable of flattening cities such as Seattle and devastating local infrastructure

  • Unease grows about China's rare Earth elements monopoly

    Rare Earth elements are quite abundant in the Earth’s crust, but environmental concerns and aggressive subsidies by China’s government to Chinese manufacturers have led to a Chinese near-monopoly: 90 percent of the world’s rare Earth elements are now being mined and processed in China; growing unease with this Chinese dominance has led to renewed efforts around the world to develop alternatives to rare Earth elements, and find environmentally sound ways to mine them

  • The world is running out of helium

    It has taken 4.7 billion years for the Earth to accumulate our helium reserves, which we will have exhausted within about a hundred years of the U.S.’s National Helium Reserve having been established in 1925; there is no chemical way of manufacturing helium, and the supplies we have originated in the very slow radioactive alpha decay that occurs in rocks

  • Japan develops vehicle motor free of rare Earth elements

    More than 90 percent of rare earths worldwide are produced in China; China had restricted exports of crucial rare Earth elements in order to cripple certain segments of the economies of other industrial countries; in response, Japanese automakers develop new engines

  • Is rare Earth elements war in the offing?

    China has just 37 percent of the world’s estimated reserves of rare Earth elements (REEs), but a whopping 97 per cent of world production of REEs now comes from China; only a few other countries have REEs on their territory, but environmental and cost issues have so far made mining REES unattractive; the biggest threat may come from the availability of elements needed in agriculture, most particularly phosphorus

  • Using bacteria to create self-healing concrete

    Cement production has an impact on the environment as it is very energy intensive, accounting for about 7 percent of the total anthropogenic atmospheric CO2 emissions; in addition to the energy consumption from production and transportation, air pollution, as well as land use and impacts on the landscape from related mining activities are also matters of concern; means of increasing the service life of concrete structures would make the material not only more durable, but also more sustainable — and researchers find that embedding certain bacteria in the concrete promises to do just that