Rare earth elements (REE) are used in many low carbon technologies and are found in every smartphone and computer. Museum scientists are part of a multi-disciplinary collaboration to promote sustainable and economical development of neodymium (Nd) and heavy rare earth element (HREE) deposits.
Low carbon uses of REE range from low energy lighting to permanent magnets in large wind turbines and hybrid cars.
Despite this global demand, 97% of the world's REE supply comes from a few localities in China.
REE prices are volatile and subject to political control, and substitute materials are difficult to design. The most difficult REE to source are neodymium and the higher atomic number HREE.
Despite these problems there are many rare earth ore deposits worldwide that could be exploited at a limited cost.
This project will develop strategies for extracting REE from the right locations in the most environmentally friendly and cost-efficient manner. This should provide a secure, reasonably priced and responsibly sourced supply.