Saturday, June 18, 2011

Elements you can't manage without.

I like reading New Scientist. You have to disregard its anti-religious bias, but it does come out with some remarkable facts from scientific esoterica. like today's article on 13 elements you can't live without I shall be posting on som,e of them over the next few days.

Rare earth element
Atomic number: 60
Used in: high-performance magnets
DoE Criticality rating: critical
Neodymium is the epitome of green, having been first harnessed to generate the light in green laser pointers. Fittingly, it has found a place at the heart of more than one green energy technology: in the magnets that keep the motors of both wind turbines and electric cars turning.
When mixed with iron and boron, neodymium makes magnets that are, weight for weight, 12 times stronger than conventional iron magnets. That's one reason your latest laptop is so compact and lightweight: the magnets allow finer control in the motors that spin the hard disc and the arm that writes and reads data to and from it, allowing much more information to be stored in the same area.
These numerous uses make for a perfect storm threatening future supplies. In its Critical Materials Strategy, which assesses elements crucial for future green-energy technologies, the US Department of Energy estimates that wind turbines and electric cars could make up 40 per cent of neodymium demand in an already overstretched market. Together with increasing demand for the element in personal electronic devices, that makes for a clear “critical” rating.

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