Rare-Earth Metals Were Discovered By Japanese Researchers Deep In The Western Pacific Ocean

Rare-Earth Metals Were Discovered By Japanese Researchers Deep In The Western Pacific Ocean

At the bottom of the western Pacific Ocean, there are huge deposits of rare-earth metals, which are essential minerals in the manufacture of cutting-edge electronic products. The best part is that they are ready to be exploited and, under some conditions, could meet the needs of global consumption during several centuries.

Despite their name, these metals abound throughout the planet but until the end of the 20th century, scientists did not find a utility valuable enough to start the exploitation.

China was the first to exploit these rare-earth metals and, currently, 97% of the extraction of this type of materials is conducted by the Chinese people, which has rationed supply to the rest of the world, controlling prices and supply, as well.

This new discovery was confirmed in a study published this week in the Scientific Reports of the journal Nature by a group of Japanese scientists who have analyzed the deposits discovered in 2013 near the Japanese island of Minamitorishima, about 2,000 kilometers southeast of Tokyo.

Rare-earth metals can be used in electronics production and could cover these needs for a whole millennium

According to their estimates, these deposits could store 16 million tons of these precious minerals, used to produce smartphones, electric motors, lasers, flat televisions, or medical devices.

“Deposits have a high concentration of rare-earth elements, especially rare-earth metals. A single square kilometer of deposits could cover a fifth of the world consumption for a whole year,” said Yasuhiro Kato, a professor of geology at the University of Tokyo and the leader of this study.

Among the elements found by scientists, there is the dysprosium (used to make magnets), yttrium (fundamental in the production of lasers), europium (used in the production of optoelectronic devices), and terbium (used in special in the production of magnetomechanical devices, from naval sonars to audio sensors).

In order to obtain these results, the Japanese researchers have applied a new technique of centrifugation that allows the extraction of more rare-earth elements in comparison to the techniques used currently.

These new methods will increase the amount of exploitable rare-earth metals elements and thus the profitability of extraction projects also increases, when will be implemented.


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