A group of natural metals known as the rare earths has made possible our technology-powered society. Demand for these crucial components in nearly all modern electronics is skyrocketing. ScienceNews brought this information to our attention in their article, “How rare earth elements’ hidden properties make modern technology possible.”

Rare-earth elements (REEs) are used as components in high technology devices, including smart phones, digital cameras, computer hard disks, fluorescent and light-emitting-diode (LED) lights, flat screen televisions, computer monitors, and electronic displays. Large quantities of some REEs are used in clean energy and defense technologies.

Heavy rare earth elements (HREEs) such as Gd–Lu, Sc and Y are irreplaceable metals for a number of critical (including clean) technologies, but they are scarce.

Most people view technology as the future. In the business sector, Silicon Valley and tech startups exhibit massive growth potential; in manufacturing, new machinery and automation are boosting efficiency; and in the environmental realm, green technology presents the best prospects for decarbonization. Unfortunately, production of these new technologies requires the extraction of REEs.

Melody K. Smith

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