RARE EARTH ELEMENTS
14, Dec 2019
Prelims level : Resources Mains level : GS-I Distribution of Key Natural Resources across the World (Including South Asia and the Indian Sub-Continent): Factors responsible for the location of Primary, Secondary and Tertiary Sector Industries in various part of the world.
Why in News?
- U.S.A has been planning to fund the construction of a Rare Earths processing facility in order to secure the domestic supply of minerals that are used to make Military Weapons and Electronics.
Why U.S.A needs such a Facility?
- The decision of U.S.A arrived when China threatened to stop exporting Rare Earth materials to them amid the ongoing trade war between the countries.
- At present, China refines approximately 80%-90% of the world’s Rare Earths, thereby having substantial control over their supply.
- It has be noted that this will be the first financial investment by the USA into commercial-scale Rare Earths production since the Manhattan Project to build the first atomic bomb during World War II.
About Rare Earths Minerals (REM):
- The rare earths minerals (REM) are a set of seventeen metallic elements. These include the fifteen lanthanides on the periodic table in addition to scandium and yttrium that show similar physical and chemical properties to the lanthanides.
- The REMs have unique catalytic, metallurgical, nuclear, electrical, magnetic and luminescent properties.
- Even though it has been named as ‘rare earth minerals’, they are in fact not that rare and are relatively abundant in the Earth’s crust.
Applications of REMs:
- Due to their unique magnetic, luminescent, and electrochemical properties, they help in technologies perform with reduced weight, reduced emissions, and energy consumption; therefore give them greater efficiency, performance, miniaturization, speed, durability, and thermal stability.
- Its usage range from daily use (e.g., lighter flints, glass polishing mediums, car alternators) to high-end technology (lasers, magnets, batteries, fibre-optic telecommunication cables).
- Even futuristic technologies involve the usage of these REMs.
- For Example: High-temperature superconductivity, safe storage and transport of hydrogen for a post-hydrocarbon economy, environmental global warming and energy efficiency issues.