The Technology Metals Summit (Itinerary: Download TMS-Agenda-Jan 27VFinalV3) is only 2 days away and counting…the WTO story is just out in the NY Times and emails are flooding in with interest. I am trying to edit a piece for the kick off Wednesday AM before Constantine Karayannopoulos, CEO, President and Director, Neo Material Technologies Inc. hits the floor at 8:15 AM with his keynote speech titled: Shortages, Surpluses and Foggy Roller Coaster Rides; Dispatches from the Rare Earth Front Lines.
Interview this morning. I described the Technology Metals Summit as a 2-day event that would facilitate bringing the REE ‘scary smart club’ together. He asked me what was the intent of my dalliance from my usual day job as entrepreneur/publisher into becoming an event planner was and the answer is clear: to educate industry followers and investors on rare earths, rare metals and critical metals. With the greater goal being to inspire interest, stimulate debate and educate investors and industry alike about the current and future state of the sector.
On this note, I understand only too well that there might be some confusion about what the terms rare earths, rare metals and critical metals refer to; what if any are the differences?
First, “rare earths aren’t rare” are the famous words of Mr. Daniel J. Cordier. In fact, rare earths are found in abundance around the world. What makes them rare is that it is rare to find an economic or commercially viable source of rare earths. In fact, I am honestly looking forward to Robert Mackay, B.Sc. Mining, President and CEO, Stans Energy Corp.’s panel on Wednesday titled: The 3 C`s of Metallurgy: Chemistry. Chemistry. Chemistry. With two internationally renowned HREE metallurgists coming in just for this event — Jean-Paul Tognet, Chemist and Nuclear Engineer (Toulouse and Grenoble – France) and Dr. Valery D. Kosynkin, Sr. REE Metallurgist, Russia’s State Institute of Chemical Technologies (VNIIHT) they will undoubtedly create debate.
If you go to REEHandbook.com, rare earths are the 15 Lanthanide elements, plus scandium and yttrium. Rare metals, on the other hand, are a loosely defined group of resources that depending on where you research your information, often include tantalum, niobium and the platinum group metals. While these are rare and valuable – they are not rare earths.
So, what then are critical metals or strategic metals?
The US Department of Energy (DOE), in a report titled Critical Metals Strategy (December 2010), included dysprosium, neodymium, terbium, europium, yttrium and indium on their list. These metals were designated critical status based on the role they play in green energy and clean technologies – and more importantly, because supply of these metals could be at risk short-to-medium-term.
I also wanted to give you all something to remember about each of the 17 rare earth elements that will be discussed and debated on Feb. 1st and 2nd; Something to pique your interest and entice you to learn more about REEs in case you can’t make it out…
- SCANDIUM: Scandium is more abundant in the Moon than on Earth.
- LANTHANUM: Using lanthanum in the refining process of crude oil keeps the cost down by increasing the yield.
- CERIUM: At 60 parts per million in the Earth’s crust, cerium is more abundant than copper, cobalt, and lithium.
- PRASEODYMIUM: Praseodymium is primarily used in combination with neodymium magnets to increase their availability to supply growing demand for high-tech applications.
- NEODYMIUM: A thumbnail size, high-strength Neodymium-iron-boron (Nd2Fe14B) magnet is so strong that when placed on a refrigerator it cannot be removed by hand.
- PROMETHIUM: Promethium is used in nuclear powered batteries that have a useful life of five years.
- SAMARIUM: Samarium chloride taken internally in the proper quantity will combine with alcohol and keep you from becoming drunk.
- EUROPIUM: An array of colors can be created from europium’s trivalent and divalent compounds, creating reds, greens, and blues, and combined to create white.
- GADOLINIUM: Gadolinium is the superman of the elements with superhero properties resulting from its half-full electron shell.
- TERBIUM: Terbium in Terfenol-D expands and contracts in a magnetic field to precisely aim lasers.
- DYSPROSIUM: Dysprosium has two paired electrons giving it the ability to detect radiation, improve permanent magnets, store digital data, precisely aim lasers, emit sonar pings, or glow in the dark.
- HOLMIUM: Holmium’s three electron pairs that give it the ability to be the leading medical laser, detect objects based on their vibrational signal, defeat infrared heat-seeking missiles, and generate high-energy laser pulses.
- ERBIUM: Erbium:yttrium aluminum garnet (Er:YAG) lasers are used in dermatology for skin resurfacing to remove wrinkles.
- THULIUM: Thulium, the rarest of the rare earths has the ability to fluoresce to reduce X-ray exposure, illuminate sport arenas and athletic fields, and generate laser beams that provide less invasive surgical procedures.
- YTTERBIUM: With six paired electrons its properties impart high-energy to lasers, penetrate thick steel to test quality, destroy cancer cells with gamma rays, strengthen turbine blades, and inscribe identifying marks, codes, and symbols.
- LUTETIUM: Is the heaviest rare earth and is endowed with properties of medical diagnostics on the molecular level, nanometer lithography of integrated circuits, high-energy treatment of cancer, and laser detection of weather vectors including dust in the wind.
- YTTRIUM: Yttrium leapt to fame as the first impure oxide of the rare earths to be discovered.