CO2_2016 - page 43

41
Chimica Oggi - Chemistry Today
- vol. 34(2) March/April 2016
there are no viable
alternatives is a
sure way to not find
them, and believing
something is impossible
is a sure way to inhibit
innovation. The future
of rare earth element
use will certainly require
thinking far outside
the box, and that
could mean anything
from mining the moon
to undiscovered
biochemical routes.
REFERENCES AND NOTES
1.
The Atlantic: http://
/
magazine/
archive/2009/05/clean-
Researchers at the
Oak Ridge National
Laboratory, for example,
are seeking ways to
improve the harsh
processing steps (11).
They’ve found that ionic
liquids may prove to
be a safer alternative
way to extract rare
earths from mineral
ores like bastnaesite,
which is conventionally
repeatedly treated with
strong acids. Further
research into greener
rare-earths processing
methods could reduce
the environmental
impact of using them.
OPPORTUNITIES
While mitigating the effects of using rare earths after the fact
is certainly a step in the right direction, it would be ideal to
avoid their use in the first place. IRENA is an international
collaborative project with the mission of replacing indium
and gallium in flat panel displays by using single-walled
carbon nanotubes (12). Similarly, novel metal alloys with
computationally-predicted magnetic properties may just be
the way forward (13). With the help of computer programs
that are more powerful than ever, there’s a chance novel
compounds and materials could usurp permanent magnets
made from rare earths.
The demand for these materials and products is great,
and funding opportunities for more extensive research
are emerging in response. The Engineering and Physical
Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) in the UK began a £10
million program to support alternative, sustainable materials
and to accelerate their commercialization (14). Stateside,
the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E)
created the REACT program (Rare Earth Alternatives in
Critical Technologies) to likewise fund research into substitute
materials (15).
The current shortcomings of clean energy are certainly
fixable; moreover, the methods we use now are hopefully just
to tide us over as we transition from fossil fuels. Projects and
organizations all over the world – like the Critical Materials
Institute and the Critical Raw Materials Innovation Roadmap
– are initiating collaborative efforts to create and implement
technology that will work today and for many tomorrows
(16, 17). In addition, despite the bad environmental
reputation of rare earths mining in China – by far the largest
global supplier - there has been a buzz in clean production
research over the past few years (see section 7.3.7) (18).
Changes in Chinese mining regulation specifically target
the most environmentally harmful mining methods, such as
those that produce large quantities of radioactive slurry or
facilities that fail to treat wastewater, gas and solid waste.
Encouraging results from research institutes and universities
across China point to a future of safer and more efficient
rare earths mining worldwide.
While the challenges may seem insurmountable, assuming
Rare earth elements in the periodic table (Image Credit: Rare Earth Resources)
energys-dirty-little-secret/307377/ (last checked on Feb. 16
th
2016)
2.
The BBC:
/
archive/2009/05/clean-energys-dirty-little-secret/307377/ (last
checked on Jan. 31
st
2016)
3.
World Trade Organization:
dispu_e/cases_e/ds431_e.htm (last checked on Feb. 23
rd
2016)
4.
E&E Publishing, LLC:
(last checked on Feb. 23
rd
2016)
5.
Investor Intel:
military-success-rare-metals-and-the-periodic-table/ (last
checked on Feb. 23
rd
, 2016)
6.
Solvay:
_
releases/20120927-coleopterre.html (last checked on Feb. 23
rd
,
2016)
7.
Phys.org:
earth-metals.html (last checked on Feb. 23
rd
, 2016)
8.
Electronics TakeBack Coalition:
.
com/about-us/ (last checked on Feb. 23
rd
, 2016)
9.
Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries:
-
publications/article/2014/04/01/isri-presents-dell-inc-with-its-2014-
design-for-recycling-award#.VsygGOZ9aix (last checked on Feb.
23
rd
, 2016)
10. Umicore:
pressCoverage/2011/20110127_NYTimes_BR.pdf (last checked on
Feb. 23
rd
, 2016)
11. European Journal of Inorganic Chemistry:
.
wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ejic.201500509/pdf (last checked on Feb.
23
rd
, 2016)
12. IRENA:
/ (last checked on Feb.
23
rd
, 2016)
13. AIP Publishing, LLC:
apl/107/14/10.1063/1.4932571 (last checked on Feb. 23
rd
, 2016)
14. Chemistry World:
/
rare-element-substitution-tricky-proposition (last checked on Feb.
23
rd
, 2016)
15. Advanced Research Projects Agency:
.
gov/?q=arpa-e-programs/react (last checked on Feb. 23
rd
, 2016)
16. Critical Materials Institute:
/ (last checked
on Feb. 23
rd
, 2016)
17. Critical Raw Materials Innovation Network:
.
criticalrawmaterials.eu/project-summary/ (last checked on Feb.
23
rd
, 2016)
18. Oeko-Institut e.V. (Institute for Applied Ecology):
.
de/oekodoc/1112/2011-003-en.pdf (last checked on Feb. 23
rd
,
2016)
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