As low-carbon industries grow, some doubt that the available supply of rare earth metals – essential components in wind turbines and advanced batteries – can keep up with demand.
Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Materials Systems Laboratory looked at 10 of these metals and found that two, neodymium and dysprosium, are going to face serious supply challenges in the coming years.
According to the study, due to the projected rapid growth in demand for the high-performance permanent magnets needed by the wind turbine and EV markets, for example, demand for neodymium and dysprosium will rise at an unprecedented rate.
Demand for dysprosium is seen increasing 2,600 percent in the next 25 years, while that for neodymium is seen rising by as much as 700 percent for the same period.
They recommend more research into developing new sources of the materials, substituting materials or improving the efficiency of their use. Ways to recycle the metals once the devices reach end of life could also be valuable.
Currently, China produces 98 percent of the world's rare earth metals with 50 percent of known rare earth metal reserves.
Rare earth metals are difficult to extract and bringing them up can result in environmental consequences.
The United States, which also has significant deposits of rare earths, has ceased mining almost altogether because of environmental regulations that have increased the cost of production.
China itself has caused international anxiety by limiting the quotas of rare earth metals they export, limitations they placed in 2010. – EcoSeed Staff