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Strategic Rare Metals – Critical for the Future of US Defense

Rare Strategic Metals

Rare Strategic Metals

As more and more dollars get printed, it gets harder to foresee a future that doesn’t include significant inflation. If you’re worried about inflation, you can protect yourself by purchasing tangible assets with fixed values. Gold, oil and gas interests, and real estate are all examples of assets that typically hedge against inflation. However, if you aren’t including strategic rare metals in your investment portfolio, you’re missing out on a major opportunity.

Strategic Rare Metals

These compounds are naturally occurring elements — just like gold or aluminum. Like gold, they are relatively rare. Unlike gold, which is primarily used for investment or for leisure spending, strategic rare metals are extremely important in the manufacture of many of the goods that you use. You might not have heard of iridium, for instance, but it’s used in light-emitting diodes and in flat-screen displays. It is also 10 times rarer than gold, based on its natural occurrence in the Earth’s crust.

Much of gold’s value comes from popular opinion, rather than from its intrinsic usefulness. It is relatively unimportant for industrial purposes and equally attractive jewelry can be made from different compounds. While it has been held to be a valuable compound for thousands of years, there is relatively little justification underpinning that belief. Strategic metals, on the other hand, are valuable because they’re necessary. Fuel cells, computer chips, optical lenses, pharmaceuticals and military devices can’t be made without them. This gives them real, intrinsic value, and can make them a particularly useful tool to protect your wealth against future erosion in the dollar.

Metals and Defense

The defense industry uses strategic rare metals heavily:

  • Gallium. Communications devices use gallium.
  • Iridium. Iridium is used in many optical applications including night vision, laser tracking and target recognition systems.
  • Rhenium. The ability of rhenium to withstand extreme temperatures makes it crucial for fabricating parts in military jet engines.
  • Tantalum. Weapons systems designers that need small, but high-capacity, capacitors turn to tantalum alloys.
  • Tungsten. Once used heavily for incandescent light bulbs, tungsten’s hardness makes it an important part of penetrating armaments and other projectiles.

Without these strategic rare metals, the nature of military hardware would have to change overnight. During both good times and extremely bad times, the military has the ability to spend either because tax revenues justify it or because the government wants to protect itself. With this in mind, the rare metals that the military needs to function can be an excellent hedging investment.

Owning Strategic Rare Metals

Owning strategic metal isn’t like buying copper or aluminum. Many of them have prices that are roughly comparable to that of gold, so the quantities that you typically need to buy are reasonable. Like gold, you can buy physical metals rather than depending on a paper-based investment where you don’t truly have ownership that you can count on. Rare strategic metals can even be held in a self-directed IRA and can even be stored overseas, giving you a foothold in another country in the event of severe instability in the United States.

Whether or not you realize it, strategic rare metals power most of the devices in your life as well as driving the country’s military. You’ve benefited from them for years. Now, you can also benefit from their stability and value by including them in your investment portfolio.

 

Click Here to learn more on a brand new asset protection strategy most investors don't even know about

Supply crunch for displays could hit initial shipments

Apple iPad 3Dubai Apple could face problems meeting rising demand for new iPad models due to a shortage of high resolution displays, an industry expert has claimed.

“Apple is said to be examining a new LCD display technology from Sharp that uses indium, gallium, zinc and oxide thin-film transistors (IGZO TFT). Unfortunately, Sharp is experiencing manufacturing problems that could affect the availability for a full rollout,” said Vinita Jakhanwal, senior manager for small and medium displays at IHS iSuppli, a research firm.

Apple has chosen Sharp to replace Chimei Innolux (CMI) as one of its three suppliers for the QXGA panels in addition to LG and Samsung.

She said both Sharp and LG are not ready to supply QXGA panels, it is probably Samsung that will supply the panels initially. The shortage may be felt till the second quarter when Sharp and LG will be ready for mass production.

“Apple is likely to incur a significant price premium for using the higher-resolution display. However, manufacturers are expected to grant discounts, especially because Apple has made investments in LG, Sharp and Toshiba Mobile Display,” she said.

“By investing in its partners, Apple not only can mitigate these costs to a degree, but it also can be assured of the availability and quality of the displays.”

According to industry sources, Samsung outperformed LG to become the top supplier of 9.7-inch flat panels for iPads in January with shipments totalling 2.45 million, up from 1.65 million shipped in December.

LG saw its shipments of 9.7-inch iPad panels decline from over 2.1 million in December to 1.7 million in February, while shipments of 9.7-inch panels from CMI also dropped from 500,000 to 350,000 during the same period.

Shipments of 9.7-inch iPad panels totalled 48 million in 2011 and are expected to top 65 million this year, including 25 million for iPad 2 and 40 million for iPad 3.

Shipments of 9.7-inch iPad panels totalled 48 million last year and are expected to top 65 million this year, including 25 million for iPad 2 and 40 million for iPad 3.

On the other hand, demand for touch panels for iPads is expected to reach 16-17 million in the first quarter of this year, including 7.5-8 million for iPad 2 and 8.5-9 million for iPad 3.

Jakhanwal said IHS forecasts 131 million tablets to be sold this year, of which 75 million will be iPads. Apple is projected to spend an estimated $9 billion on display panels used in iPads and iPhones, up 91 per cent from $4.7 billion in 2011. Apple spent $2 billion in 2010.

Outlook: More new versions

Apple is planning further versions of its iPhone and iPad products before the end of 2012, according to Vinita Jakhanwal, senior manager for small and medium displays at IHS iSuppli.

“The new 7.85-inch iPad will have 160 pixels per inch and regular IPS-LCD panel and at a cheaper price compared to other iPads,” Vinita Jakhanwal, senior manager for small and medium displays at IHS iSuppli, told Gulf News.

She added that a new iPhone with a display size of 4-inches is likely to be introduced by August. According to industry sources in the supply chain, makers have started delivering samples of new iPads for verification, with volume production likely to begin in the third quarter at the earliest.

The planned launch of the 7.85-inch iPad is apparently to take on Amazon’s $199 7-inch Kindle Fire as well as planned launch Windows 8 tablets..

The price of the 7.85-inch iPad is likely to be set at $249-$299, since Apple is also expected to release an 8GB iPad 2 for $349-$399, the sources said.

As for the iPhone, the new 4G LTE phone is expected to have 320 pixels per inch resolution enabled by an XGA (1024 by 768) pixel format, while continuing to utilise the same low-temperature polysilicon liquid crystal display technology now employed by current models.

By: Naushad K. Cherrayil
Source: http://gulfnews.com/business/technology/supply-crunch-for-displays-could-hit-initial-shipments-1.991955

Sharp’s High-res IGZO Display for iPad 3 after all?

Apple may well use display technology from Sharp for the upcoming third-generation iPad despite a number of earlier reports to the contrary, Cnet reports.

Sharp’s display tech, called IGZO (indium gallium zinc oxide), was considered by analysts a while ago as a possible solution for the high-end display suitable for the top tablet on the market.

Many reports subsequently claimed that Apple’s hierarchy had dismissed Sharp as a supplier; however, Charles Annis, analyst at DisplaySearch, from Kyoto, Japan, suggests now that Sharp might still have a good chance to partner with Apple for the iPad 3.

He reveals that Sharp is already mass producing the IGZO displays and furthermore, there is no commercial IGZO flat panel display available on the market right now. To make the situation even more mysterious, Annis suggests that there is no real reason to be sure that Apple will eventually accept LG Display’s products either for the upcoming iPad 3.

Apple might be eyeing the Sharp’s IGZO technology as its increased brightness, compared to conventional displays, could allow a reduction in the number of backlight LEDs, and hence cost, as well as providing longer battery life – both key factors for super-high-resolution displays on mobile devices.

Annis also mentions that he expects the iPad 3 to start going on sale in April.

By: Radu Tyrsina
Source: http://www.itproportal.com/2012/02/09/sharp-high-res-igzo-display-ipad3-after-all/

Could the renewables industry suffer from a lack of scarce metals?

Solar Panels

It is not just in laptop computers, mobile telephones and LED screens that scarce metals are to be found but also in solar cells, batteries for mobile technologies and many other similar applications. And the rising demand for these metals increases the risk of a bottleneck in supplies…

“There is no future without scarce metals!” This was the very clear message with which Peter Hofer, a member of Empa’s Board of Directors, greeted guests at the recent Technology Briefing on scarce metals held at the Empa Academy.

After all, it is scarce metals in batteries and motors that keep electric vehicles rolling and which, in automobile catalytic converters, clean up the exhaust gases.

Hofer said: “Materials with special properties are essential if we are to find solutions to the problems caused by our ever-increasing mobility requirements.”

The term scarce metals includes gallium, indium, cobalt and the platinum metals, in addition to the rare earth metals which are used (together with iron and boron), for example, to make the very strong magnets needed in wind turbines.

And manufacturers like to use tantalum for the capacitors on mobile telephone printed circuit boards (PCBs) because this transition metal, when used in these tiny components, enables them to store and release large amounts of electrical energy. The demand is high, with more than 60% of the tantalum mined being used for this application.

The darker side

But, as Patrick Wäger, the initiator of the Technology Briefing and an expert on scarce metals, explained, everything has a darker side to it. Raw materials which can only be mined and refined in a few countries, for which alternatives are not easy to find and which have a low rate of recycling must are considered to be critical. China, for example, almost completely controls the supply of rare earth metals from which high-performance permanent magnets are manufactured.

Wäger, who is a staff member of Empa’s Technology and Society laboratory, added that by imposing export restrictions the Chinese Government has forced prices to rise, leading to delivery bottlenecks. Currently great efforts are being made to reduce this dependency by expanding supply capacities outside of China, such as in the USA, Australia or Greenland – with implications also for the environment.

Tantalum, required for high-performance micro-capacitors, is viewed in the microelectronics industry as a material which is difficult to substitute, and to date it has not been possible to recover it from end-of-life products. Particularly worrying are the facts that tantalum is illegally mined in certain Central African countries under degrading conditions, and the profits from its sale are used to finance civil wars.

“Swiss companies also need to think closely about how they can reduce this dependency and avoid the possibility of delivery bottlenecks,” remarked Jean-Philippe Kohl, the Head of Swissmem’s Economic Policy Group.

A recent survey of the industry association’s members in the Swiss mechanical engineering, electrical and metal sectors showed that every single company contacted used at least one of the critical raw materials. In order to protect themselves from possible shortages many of the companies had signed long-term delivery contracts with their suppliers. The others are cooperating with research institutions, either to develop alternative raw materials and technologies, or to optimise existing processes.

Alternatives from research labs

As an example of this approach, Stephan Buecheler explained how Empa’s Thin-Films and Photovoltaic laboratory was working to reduce the thickness of the critical tellurium layer in flexible solar cells which use cadmium telluride (CdTe) as the active material.

Similarly, efforts are being made in solar cells based on copper-indium-gallium-diselenide (CIGS) to replace the critical indium oxide with zinc oxide. In making these changes no loss of performance is expected. Quite the opposite, in fact – the aim is to increase the efficiency of these devices by optimal use of raw materials and fast processes. Researchers have already shown that this is possible, having set a new efficiency record last year.

Again with the aim of reducing scarce metal usage, the institution’s Internal Combustion Engine laboratory has developed an extremely efficient and economic foam catalyst. Changing the form of the ceramic substrate has enabled the use of less of the noble metals palladium and rhodium in comparison to conventional catalysts.

In collaboration with Empa’s Solid-State Chemistry and Catalysis laboratory, the motor scientists are conducting research work on regenerative exhaust gas catalysts which employed perovskites instead of scarce metals. The former are multifunctional metal oxides which, because of their special crystal structure, are capable of transforming heat directly into electrical energy.

The recycling challenge

Despite all the doom and gloom, we will not have to do without scarce metals entirely. As Heinz Boeni, head of the Technology and Society laboratory, maintained there is of course a reserve of scarce metals to be found in end-of-life electrical and electronic products.

While natural primary deposits are being used up, the ‘anthropogenic’ secondary deposits created by man are increasing continuously. In a ton of natural ore as mined there is typically about 5 g of gold. In a ton of discarded mobile telephones, on the other hand, there is about 280 g, while the same weight of scrap PCBs contains as much as 1.4 kg of the precious metal! But recovering scarce metals is anything but easy.

“You can’t just pull them out from electronic waste with a screwdriver and a hammer. The recovery process is at least as complex as the design and development of the old appliances themselves,” recycling expert Christian Hagelüken made clear.

A large percentage of scarce metals are to be found in the form of very thin layers or mixed with other substances in the form of alloys, added Hagelüken, whose employer, Umicore, is one of the largest recycling companies involved in the recovery of precious metals from complex waste material. Recycling scarce metals demands the use of complicated recovery processes.

Furthermore, suitable recovery processes alone are not enough to guarantee high recycling rates. According to the experts it is necessary to keep an eye on the whole recycling chain, from collection, disassembly and sorting of the scrap to the actual recovery process itself.

The greatest efforts are in vain if, as is the case in certain countries, end-of-life computers and other electronic appliances are exported to developing and threshold countries where the scarce metals are lost through the inappropriate treatment of the electronic waste, which also represents a danger to human health and the environment. Or, if with a mechanical disassembly – which is common today in Switzerland – the scarce metals are dissipated into fractions from which they cannot be recovered.

Source: http://www.renewableenergyfocus.com/view/23613/could-the-renewables-industry-suffer-from-a-lack-of-scarce-metals/

No future without scarce metals

(Nanowerk News) It is not just in laptop computers, mobile telephones and LED screens that scarce metals are to be found but also in solar cells, batteries for mobile technologies and many other similar applications. The rising demand for these metals increases the risk of a bottleneck in supplies.

Empa researchers and representatives from industry explained at the “Technology Briefing” why scarce metals are essential for many key technologies and how an impending scarcity might be avoided.

“There is no future without scarce metals!” This was the very clear message with which Peter Hofer, a member of Empa’s Board of Directors, greeted guests at the recent Technology Briefing on scarce metals held at the Empa Academy. After all, it is scarce metals in batteries and motors that keep electric vehicles rolling and which, in automobile catalytic converters, clean up the exhaust gases. Hofer again: “Materials with special properties are essential if we are to find solutions to the problems caused by our ever-increasing mobility requirements.”

The term scarce metals includes gallium, indium, cobalt and the platinum metals, in addition to the rare earth metals which are used (together with iron and boron), for example, to make the very strong magnets needed in wind turbines. And manufacturers like to use tantalum for the capacitors on mobile telephone printed circuit boards (PCBs) because this transition metal, when used in these tiny components, enables them to store and release large amounts of electrical energy. The demand is high, with more than 60 per cent of the tantalum mined being used for this application.

The darker side

But, as Patrick Wäger, the initiator of this Technology Briefing and an expert on scarce metals, explained, everything has a darker side to it. Raw materials which can only be mined and refined in a few countries, for which alternatives are not easy to find and which have a low rate of recycling must are considered to be critical. China, for example, almost completely controls the supply of rare earth metals from which high-performance permanent magnets are manufactured. Wäger, who is a staff member of Empa’s Technology and Society laboratory, added that by imposing export restrictions the Chinese government has forced prices to rise, leading to delivery bottlenecks. Currently great efforts are being made to reduce this dependency by expanding supply capacities outside of China, such as in the USA, Australia or Greenland – with implications also for the environment.

Tantalum, required for high-performance micro-capacitors, is viewed in the microelectronics industry as a material which is difficult to substitute, and to date it has not been possible to recover it from end-of-life products. Particularly worrying are the facts that tantalum is illegally mined in certain Central African countries under degrading conditions, and the profits from its sale are used to finance civil wars.

“Swiss companies also need to think closely about how they can reduce this dependency and avoid the possibility of delivery bottlenecks, ” remarked Jean-Philippe Kohl, the head of Swissmem’s Economic Policy Group. A recent survey of the industry association’s members in the Swiss mechanical engineering, electrical and metal sectors showed that every single company contacted used at least one of the critical raw materials. In order to protect themselves from possible shortages many of the companies had signed long-term delivery contracts with their suppliers. The others are cooperating with research institutions, either to develop alternative raw materials and technologies, or to optimize existing processes.

Alternatives from research labs

As an example of this approach, Stephan Buecheler explained how Empa’s Thin-Films and Photovoltaic laboratory was working to reduce the thickness of the critical tellurium layer in flexible solar cells which use cadmium telluride (CdTe) as the active material. Similarly, efforts are being made in solar cells based on copper-indium-gallium-diselenide (CIGS) to replace the critical indium oxide with zinc oxide. In making these changes no loss of performance is expected. Quite the opposite, in fact – the aim is to increase the efficiency of these devices by optimal use of raw materials and fast processes. Researchers have already shown that this is possible, having set a new efficiency record last year.

Again with the aim of reducing scarce metal usage, the institution’s Internal Combustion Engine laboratory has developed an extremely efficient and economic foam catalyst. Changing the form of the ceramic substrate has enabled the use of less of the noble metals palladium and rhodium in comparison to conventional catalysts. In collaboration with Empa’s Solid-State Chemistry and Catalysis laboratory, the motor scientists are conducting research work on regenerative exhaust gas catalysts which employed perovskites instead of scarce metals. The former are multifunctional metal oxides which, because of their special crystal structure, are capable of transforming heat directly into electrical energy.

The “recycling” challenge

Despite all the doom and gloom, we will not have to do without scarce metals entirely. As Heinz Boeni, head of the Technology and Society laboratory, maintained there is of course a reserve of scarce metals to be found in end-of-life electrical and electronic products. While natural primary deposits are being used up, the “anthropogenic” secondary deposits created by man are increasing continuously. In a ton of natural ore as mined there is typically about 5 g of gold. In a ton of discarded mobile telephones, on the other hand, there is about 280 g, while the same weight of scrap PCBs contains as much as 1.4 kg of the precious metal!

But recovering scarce metals is anything but easy. “You can’t just pull them out from electronic waste with a screwdriver and a hammer. The recovery process is at least as complex as the design and development of the old appliances themselves”, recycling expert Christian Hagelüken made clear. A large percentage of scarce metals are to be found in the form of very thin layers or mixed with other substances in the form of alloys, added Hagelüken, whose employer, Umicore, is one of the largest recycling companies involved in the recovery of precious metals from complex waste material. Recycling scarce metals demands the use of complicated recovery processes.

Furthermore, suitable recovery processes alone are not enough to guarantee high recycling rates. According to the experts it is necessary to keep an eye on the whole recycling chain, from collection, disassembly and sorting of the scrap to the actual recovery process itself. The greatest efforts are in vain if, as is the case in certain countries, end-of-life computers and other electronic appliances are exported to developing and threshold countries where the scarce metals are lost through the inappropriate treatment of the electronic waste, which also represents a danger to human health and the environment. Or, if with a mechanical disassembly – which is common today in Switzerland – the scarce metals are dissipated into fractions from which they cannot be recovered.

Source: http://www.nanowerk.com/news/newsid=24127.php

Critical Metals Vital to Our Lives in Tight Supply

Rare Earth Elements

We begin 2012 similar to how we started 2011 when it comes to rare earth, rare technical metals and rare industrial metals. China has over 90% of production and refining. The US and EU governments are scrambling to legislate, source, produce, open and reopen mines. The West has decided to continue down the road of the idea that the markets will take care of the supply and price of these metals. What is alarming is how easily the West was lulled to sleep by China´s ability to supply the world its metals cheaply and efficiently. The West concentrated on making money trading stocks and futures that dealt with these commodities. China concentrated on building the most extensive mining industry in the history of man. Here in 2012 the Department of Energy in the USA has approved a spending bill that includes $20 Million to focus on the supply issues of these metals.

The metals I am speaking about are so vital to our everyday lives. These metals are found in your mobile phones, computers, LCD and LED TV´s, hybrid cars, solar power, wind power, nuclear power, efficient lighting and medical technologies. Here is a list of metals that have been deemed critical.

  • Indium RIM (Solar, Mobile Phones, LCD)
  • Tellurium RIM (Solar, Computers, Semi-conductors)
  • Gallium RIM (Solar, Mobile Phones, LED´s, Fuel Cells)
  • Hafnium RIM (Processors, Nuclear, Lighting, Plasma Cutting Tools)
  • Tantalum RIM (Capacitors, Medical Implants, Mobile Phones, Nuclear)
  • Tungsten RIM (Nuclear, Armaments, Aviation)
  • Yttrium REE (Lighting, Medical Technology, Magnets in Hybrids)
  • Neodymium REE (Magnets in Wind power, Super Magnets, Hybrid Vehicles)
  • Dysprosium REE (Computers, Nuclear, Hybrid Vehicles)
  • Europium REE (Lighting, LED´s, Lasers
  • Lanthanum REE (Hybrid Vehicles, Magnets, Optics)
  • Cerium REE (LED´s, Catalytic Converters, Magnets)

RIM=Rare Industrial Metal REE=Rare Earth Element

The supplies of these metals could hold back the production of green technologies. According to the latest report by the Department of Energy, ¨Supply challenges for five rare earth metals may affect clean energy technology deployment in the years ahead¨. If Green technology is to become main stream, the costs of these technologies have to reach cost parity with traditional energy sources. As long as there are serious supply issues with these metals the costs can´t reach these levels. The other option is finding alternatives like Graphene and Nanotechnologies.

The US and EU need supply chains of the metals that include both mining and refining of these metals. Relying on sovereign states for critical metals such as these, leave a nation vulnerable to outside influence in both politics and economics. Environmentalists have succeeded in influencing politicians to close mines throughout the West. Politicians have legislated the mining industry into the position it is in today. The Western nations must start now to build its supply chain or continue to be at the mercy of the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) nations for its metal needs.

The best the West can do now is provide, enough metals to meet its own demands. China has reached a point where it can now demand that certain industries produce their products there. If a company decides to try to produce the product in another country China will make producing that item cost prohibitive outside of China by raising the prices of the metals.

The demand for the products these metals are used to produce, are showing few signs of slowing down even in a so-called recession. Governments are subsidizing Green technology, people are buying mobile phones across the planet and everybody wants a nice flat screen TV. Will 2012 pass without countries truly taking this opportunity to fix the problem or will they step up and make the hard decisions which can put the countries back in control over their own destiny?

By: Randy Hilarski – The Rare Metals Guy

Supply Threats Persist For Thin-Film Solar Materials Due To Competition

Tilbury solar project in Ontario uses First Solar's cadmium telluride thin-film modules

Cadmium Telluride Thin-Film Modules

One year ago, a report from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) on the global supply of essential PV module materials predicted possible disruptions for thin-film manufacturing.

The availability of indium, gallium and tellurium was examined in the context of current and future production needs, and the DOE found cause for concern. Indium and tellurium were pegged as especially vulnerable to supply tightness and price volatility, according to both the report and several market analysts at the time.

(See “New Government Report Identifies Supply Risks For Thin-Film PV Materials” in the February 2011 issue of Solar Industry.)

Now, the DOE has released the latest edition of its Critical Materials Strategy. Have the worries over thin-film PV materials supply eased? According to the DOE, the general supply-demand picture for indium, gallium and tellurium has “improved slightly,” but the situation is not entirely reassuring. The three metals are still highlighted (alongside neodymium and dysprosium) as clean-energy materials that face a “significant risk of supply chain bottlenecks in the next two decades.”

The report attributes the slight improvement primarily to decreased demand for the three thin-film materials: Although PV deployment is expected to grow, the requirements of the materials per module are expected to shrink.

For copper indium gallium diselenide (CIGS) modules, manufacturers are shifting to compositions with higher proportions of gallium and lower concentrations of indium, the DOE says. The result is a “partial trade-off in the potential for supply risk between the two elements.” At the same time, CIGS’ market share assumption has been reduced under the DOE’s new calculations, lowering projected demand for both indium and gallium.

Cadmium telluride (CdTe) thin-film modules currently account for approximately 10% of the PV market, according to the report. Declining silicon prices may threaten this slice of the market, but high tellurium costs and the increasing need for CdTe manufacturers to compete for supply with non-PV companies requiring tellurium continue to cause supply headaches.

“The cost of tellurium is a critical issue for CdTe solar cell makers, and the industry is working to lower material use and increasing recovery of new scrap to reduce reliance on primary tellurium,” the DOE says in the report.

Although short-term supply of tellurium appears adequate, future capacity increases may be insufficient to supply both CdTe manufacturing and the multitude of other manufacturing sectors that use tellurium. Under one scenario modeled in the report, tellurium supply would need to increase 50% more than its projected 2015 total in order to meet expected demand.

Indium and gallium have also experienced increased popularity in non-PV manufacturing uses, such as semiconductor applications, flat-panel displays, and coatings for smartphones and tablet computers. The DOE forecasts that as a result, supplies may run short by 2015 unless production of these materials is increased – or non-PV demand lessens.

Of the two metals, gallium poses more cause for concern, as the DOE has adjusted its assumptions of future gallium use under CIGS manufacturers’ expected manufacturing modifications.

“These higher estimates [of gallium requirements] are driven largely by the assumption that gallium will increasingly be substituted for indium in CIGS composition,” the DOE explains. This change points to the benefits of reducing material intensity in other aspects of PV manufacturing, such as reducing cell thickness and improving processing efficiency.

Overall, indium, gallium and tellurium all receive moderate scores (2 or 3 on a scale of 1 to 4) from the DOE with regard to both their importance to clean energy and short- and medium-term supply risk.

In order to help mitigate possible supply disruptions that could threaten the manufacturing and deployment of PV, as well as other types of clean energy, the agency has developed a three-pronged approach.

“First, diversified global supply chains are essential,” the DOE stresses in the report. “To manage supply risk, multiple sources of materials are required. This means taking steps to facilitate extraction, processing and manufacturing here in the United States, as well as encouraging other nations to expedite alternative supplies.”

The second strategy relies on developing alternatives to materials whose supply may be constrained. For PV, one DOE research program focuses on advancements in thin-film formulations such as copper-zinc-tin and sulfide-selenide. Another initiative funds research and development into PV inks based on earth-abundant materials such as zinc, sulfur and copper.

“Several projects also seek to use iron pyrite – also known as fool’s gold – to develop prototype solar cells,” the DOE notes in the report. “Pyrite is non-toxic, inexpensive, and is the most abundant sulfide mineral in the Earth’s crust.”

Finally, improving recycling and reuse mechanisms can reduce demand for new materials, the DOE says, adding that these strategies also can help improve the sustainability of manufacturing processes.

Source: http://www.aer-online.com/e107_plugins/content/content.php?content.9408

Photo: Enbridge Inc.’s 5 MW Tilbury solar project in Ontario uses First Solar’s cadmium telluride thin-film modules. Photo credit: Enbridge

Supply Threats Persist For Thin-Film Solar Materials Due To Competition

Tilbury solar project in Ontario uses First Solar's cadmium telluride thin-film modules

Cadmium Telluride Thin-Film Modules

One year ago, a report from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) on the global supply of essential PV module materials predicted possible disruptions for thin-film manufacturing.

The availability of indium, gallium and tellurium was examined in the context of current and future production needs, and the DOE found cause for concern. Indium and tellurium were pegged as especially vulnerable to supply tightness and price volatility, according to both the report and several market analysts at the time.

Now, the DOE has released the latest edition of its Critical Materials Strategy. Have the worries over thin-film PV materials supply eased? According to the DOE, the general supply-demand picture for indium, gallium and tellurium has “improved slightly,” but the situation is not entirely reassuring. The three metals are still highlighted (alongside neodymium and dysprosium) as clean-energy materials that face a “significant risk of supply chain bottlenecks in the next two decades.”

The report attributes the slight improvement primarily to decreased demand for the three thin-film materials: Although PV deployment is expected to grow, the requirements of the materials per module are expected to shrink.

For copper indium gallium diselenide (CIGS) modules, manufacturers are shifting to compositions with higher proportions of gallium and lower concentrations of indium, the DOE says. The result is a “partial trade-off in the potential for supply risk between the two elements.” At the same time, CIGS’ market share assumption has been reduced under the DOE’s new calculations, lowering projected demand for both indium and gallium.

Cadmium telluride (CdTe) thin-film modules currently account for approximately 10% of the PV market, according to the report. Declining silicon prices may threaten this slice of the market, but high tellurium costs and the increasing need for CdTe manufacturers to compete for supply with non-PV companies requiring tellurium continue to cause supply headaches.

“The cost of tellurium is a critical issue for CdTe solar cell makers, and the industry is working to lower material use and increasing recovery of new scrap to reduce reliance on primary tellurium,” the DOE says in the report.

Although short-term supply of tellurium appears adequate, future capacity increases may be insufficient to supply both CdTe manufacturing and the multitude of other manufacturing sectors that use tellurium. Under one scenario modeled in the report, tellurium supply would need to increase 50% more than its projected 2015 total in order to meet expected demand.

Indium and gallium have also experienced increased popularity in non-PV manufacturing uses, such as semiconductor applications, flat-panel displays, and coatings for smartphones and tablet computers. The DOE forecasts that as a result, supplies may run short by 2015 unless production of these materials is increased – or non-PV demand lessens.

Of the two metals, gallium poses more cause for concern, as the DOE has adjusted its assumptions of future gallium use under CIGS manufacturers’ expected manufacturing modifications.

“These higher estimates [of gallium requirements] are driven largely by the assumption that gallium will increasingly be substituted for indium in CIGS composition,” the DOE explains. This change points to the benefits of reducing material intensity in other aspects of PV manufacturing, such as reducing cell thickness and improving processing efficiency.

Overall, indium, gallium and tellurium all receive moderate scores (2 or 3 on a scale of 1 to 4) from the DOE with regard to both their importance to clean energy and short- and medium-term supply risk.

In order to help mitigate possible supply disruptions that could threaten the manufacturing and deployment of PV, as well as other types of clean energy, the agency has developed a three-pronged approach.

“First, diversified global supply chains are essential,” the DOE stresses in the report. “To manage supply risk, multiple sources of materials are required. This means taking steps to facilitate extraction, processing and manufacturing here in the United States, as well as encouraging other nations to expedite alternative supplies.”

The second strategy relies on developing alternatives to materials whose supply may be constrained. For PV, one DOE research program focuses on advancements in thin-film formulations such as copper-zinc-tin and sulfide-selenide. Another initiative funds research and development into PV inks based on earth-abundant materials such as zinc, sulfur and copper.

“Several projects also seek to use iron pyrite – also known as fool’s gold – to develop prototype solar cells,” the DOE notes in the report. “Pyrite is non-toxic, inexpensive, and is the most abundant sulfide mineral in the Earth’s crust.”

Finally, improving recycling and reuse mechanisms can reduce demand for new materials, the DOE says, adding that these strategies also can help improve the sustainability of manufacturing processes.

By: SI Staff
Source: http://www.aer-online.com/e107_plugins/content/content.php?content.9408

Photo: Enbridge Inc.’s 5 MW Tilbury solar project in Ontario uses First Solar’s cadmium telluride thin-film modules. Photo credit: Enbridge

Gallium Helping Us Stay Connected

Rare Earth Metal – Gallium

The element so instrumental in the success of CIGS or Copper Indium Gallium Selenide solar panels garners little respect. If you do some research on Gallium you will see very few articles on this element. What you see is people talking about how to make melting spoons, and talk of the metal melting in your hand due to its low melting point of 85° F or 29.8° C. Here we are going to go over the history of Gallium and its uses in technology today.

Gallium has the symbol of Ga and the atomic number 31 on the periodic table of the elements. In 1875 Paul Emile Lecoq de Boisbaudran discovered Gallium spectroscopically. He saw Gallium´s characteristic two violet lines. Gallium does not occur free in nature. Lecoq was able to obtain the free element using electrolysis.

Gallium is found in bauxite, sphalerite and coal. It is primarily extracted from Aluminum and Zinc production. The exact amounts mined and recycled are very difficult to quantify. According to the United States Geological Survey the total amount mined in 2010 was approximately 106 t and the total recycled was approximately 78 t. Gallium supply is highly reliant on other Aluminum and Zinc mining for its supply, when the prices of the base metals fall the amount of Gallium available will be highly affected. Similar to other rare industrial metals, mining companies will not invest in the production of these metals because the markets are so small.

The uses of Gallium are found all around you. Semiconductors, LED´s, medicine, electronic components, CIGS solar and new tech like IGZO (Indium, Gallium, Zinc and Oxygen) LCD screens. The new iPhone 5 will have this kind of LCD. Over 90% is used in electronic components in the form GaAs (Gallium Arsenide). Recently CIGS solar panels reached an unprecedented 20.3% efficiency once again proving that CIGS is the most efficient form of solar on the market. The technology that will greatly increase the use of Gallium is smartphones. Analysts predict that smartphone use will grow at a rate of 15-25% over the next several years. Recently LED´s backlit screen TV´s and computer monitors have been all the rage. The LED screen market will continue to grow, further putting strain on the small Gallium supply.

The top producers of Gallium are China, Kazakhstan and Germany. Once again China has a strong position in the production of a rare industrial metal. The difference with Gallium is that almost 40% of the metal produced every year is coming from recycling.

With all of the new technologies coming along using Gallium what will the market for this metal look like in a few years? Unlike some metals like Silver and Gold, Gallium is not traded on the LME (London Metal Exchange). This makes the price of Gallium very stable. Rare industrial or technical metals are small markets with big possibilities. So if you are looking for an investment that is rarely talked about, Gallium could be a good option.

 By: Randy Hilarski – The Rare Metals Guy

EU Feels Pressure of China’s Rare Earths Supply Pinch

Rare Earth Elements critical to 80% of Modern Industry.

Rare Earth Elements critical to 80% of Modern Industry

The pressure to use low-carbon technologies less damaging to the environment is hitting hard on industries using rare earths in the European Union.

European Commission’s Vice President Antonio Tajani raised the concern regarding the steady supply of rare earths, which are primary components to solar panels and energy-efficient light bulbs.

Rare earth metals are also used in common electronic gadgets like iPhones and iPads.

The site www.theengineer.co.uk cited a report by Tajani’s early this week that a separate plan must be conceived to secure the supply of rare earths and allow the smooth execution of the EC’s Strategic Energy Technology Plan.

“European companies need to have a secure, affordable and undistorted access to raw materials. This is essential for industrial competitiveness, innovation and jobs in Europe,” Tajani’s report said.

The EC has been conducting a study of the rare earths metals in pursuing the low-carbon technology indicated in the plan, which includes nuclear, solar, wind, bio-energy, carbon capture and storage and updating electricity grids.

The study, “Critical Metals in Strategic Energy Technologies,” reveals that five metals commonly used in these technologies (neodymium, dysprosium, indium, tellurium and gallium) show a high risk of shortage, according to www.rareearthassociation.org.

China’s clamping down on rare earth production has led other nations to consider their options in securing their steady supply of the metals.

The United States has been considering building its own stockpile, which some industry specialists said could also distort world prices and the supplies.

China currently holds close to 95 percent of current supply and commanded a premium price raging from 100,000 to 300,000 renminbi early this month.

To be less reliant on China for rare earths, companies like Molycorp, Lynas Corp., Alkane Resources, Globe Metals Mining, among other mining firms have embarked on mineral exploration projects to uncover more of the coveted rare earths.

Recently, the U.S. Congress considered a strategic stock pile of rare earths as they are used in a variety of applications including global positioning and guidance and control systems, according to a Congressional Research Service report.

By Christine Gaylican
Source: http://au.ibtimes.com/articles/249401/20111115/eu-feels-pressure-rare-earths-supply-pinch.htm

JRC Report Reveals Five Rare Earth Metals Show High Scarcity Risk

Rare Earth Metal - Indium

The study titled ‘Critical Metals in Strategic Energy Technologies’ conducted by the Joint Research Centre (JRC) has revealed that five rare earth metals, which include gallium, tellurium, indium, dysprosium and neodymium, used in the production of low-carbon technologies are at risk of scarcity.

According to the study, the causes of scarcity of these metals are geopolitical problems, supply concentration, rising global demand and Europe’s reliance on imports. Moreover, these materials cannot be replaceable or recyclable easily. This study has been conducted subsequent to the publication of a European Commission report on essential raw materials at European Union in 2010.

The study suggests plans to eliminate scarcity so as to implement the Strategic Energy Technology (SET) Plan of the European Commission to gear up the development and implementation of low-carbon technologies. The study covers the utilization of raw materials, primarily metals, in the six major low-carbon technologies of the SET Plan such as electricity grids, carbon capture and storage, bio-energy, wind, solar and nuclear.

For instance, a large-scale solar power installation will need 25% of the current global supply of indium and 50% of the supply of tellurium, while a large wind power farm will need significant quantities of dysprosium and neodymium for its permanent magnet generators. China supplies almost all these metals to Europe.

The study recommends possible strategies to eliminate or reduce scarcity of these materials through replacing with other less essential materials, implementing alternative technologies and augmenting primary production of Europe by opening dormant or new mines and promoting reutilization and recycling. The JRC will conduct similar studies in the coming years on other energy technologies utilizing critical metals including fuel cells, lighting, electricity storage, and electric vehicles.

Source: http://www.jrc.ec.europa.eu

Rare metals supply a low-carbon question

Rare Earth Metal - Indium

BRUSSELS, Nov. 10 (UPI) — A world shortage of rare earth metals could hamper deployment of low-carbon energy technologies, a European Commission report says.

Many metals essential for manufacturing low-carbon technologies show a high risk of shortage, scientists at the Commission’s Joint Research Center said, because of Europe’s dependency on imports, increasing global demand, supply concentration and geopolitical issues.

The center analyzed the use of rare earth metals in the six priority low-carbon energy technologies in the Commission’s low carbon plans: nuclear, solar, wind, bio-energy, carbon capture and storage and electricity grids.

There is a risk of shortages of five metals commonly used in these technologies — neodymium, dysprosium, indium, tellurium and gallium — as virtually the whole European supply of a number of these metals comes from China, a center release said Thursday.

“European companies need to have a secure, affordable and undistorted access to raw materials,” Antonio Tajani, Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship, said.

“This is essential for industrial competitiveness, innovation and jobs in Europe.”

Source: http://www.upi.com/

Semiconductor material gallium nitride is non-toxic and is compatible with human cells

(Nanowerk News) Researchers from North Carolina State University and Purdue University have shown that the semiconductor material gallium nitride (GaN) is non-toxic and is compatible with human cells – opening the door to the material’s use in a variety of biomedical implant technologies.

GaN is currently used in a host of technologies, from LED lighting to optic sensors, but it is not in widespread use in biomedical implants. However, the new findings from NC State and Purdue mean that GaN holds promise for an array of implantable technologies – from electrodes used in neurostimulation therapies for Alzheimer’s to transistors used to monitor blood chemistry.

Scanning electron microscope image of cell growth on GaN that has been coated with peptides.

“The first finding is that GaN, unlike other semiconductor materials that have been considered for biomedical implants, is not toxic. That minimizes risk to both the environment and to patients,” says Dr. Albena Ivanisevic, who co-authored a paper describing the research (“Gallium Nitride is Biocompatible and Non-Toxic Before and After Functionalization with Peptides”). Ivanisevic is an associate professor of materials science and engineering at NC State and associate professor of the joint biomedical engineering program at NC State and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Researchers used a mass spectrometry technique to see how much gallium is released from GaN when the material is exposed to various environments that mimic conditions in the human body. This is important because gallium oxides are toxic. But the researchers found that GaN is very stable in these environments – releasing such a tiny amount of gallium that it is non-toxic.

The researchers also wanted to determine GaN’s potential biocompatibility. To do this they bonded peptides – the building blocks that make up proteins – to the GaN material. Researchers then placed peptide-coated GaN and uncoated GaN into cell cultures to see how the material and the cells interacted.

Researchers found that the peptide-coated GaN bonded more effectively with the cells. Specifically, more cells bonded to the material and those cells spread over a larger area.

“This matters because we want materials that give us some control over cell behavior,” Ivanisevic says. “For example, being able to make cells adhere to a material or to avoid it.

“One problem facing many biomedical implants, such as sensors, is that they can become coated with biological material in the body. We’ve shown that we can coat GaN with peptides that attract and bond with cells. That suggests that we may also be able to coat GaN with peptides that would help prevent cell growth – and keep the implant ‘clean.’ Our next step will be to explore the use of such ‘anti-fouling’ peptides with GaN.”

Source: By Matt Shipman, North Carolina State University

Asset protection with special metals – not just rare earths are in demand!

The trend toward physical assets such as special metals will be long term and sustainable," Gunther Maassen

Translated from the original German Article that can be found here:

http://www.foonds.com/article/16165//fullstory

Due to the distrust of paper money system escape investors more and more into real assets. Besides real estate , precious metals and commodity exchanges traded commodities , however, there are other commodities which are increasing the interest of investors. Namely Special Metals Exchange Express spoke with the manager of the venerable German metal dealer Haines Maassen (www.hain-maassen.com) Mr. Gunther Maassen.

BE: Mr. Maassen, you will see an increased interest from investors, including you offer specialty metals investing?

For about four years recorded Haines and Maassen an increasing demand from investors for specialty metals such as indium, gallium and hafnium.

BE: Why do you advertise on a site for commodity investors? Should this be expanded in a targeted area?

Haines & Maassen has over 60 years and active trading in the metal during this period was continuously expanded the offering plate. This particular segment is not promoted specifically, but we have adapted to the needs of this industry and adapted our offerings accordingly. We see our role as a family but in the metal trade, and not as a financial investment advisor.

BE: Is it worth an investment at all in special metals? If an investor wants to sell the purchased metals again, how great the loss is due to the trading range?

Since we are not investment advisors, we want to leave the decision up to our customers. The fundamentals of supply and demand shall, however, seems to indicate that the sustained demand for many of these elements exceed the bid. When individual elements are signs of a significant shortage. Leading research institutions around the world, for example, predict a significant shortage of indium in the next 10-20 years. Include items such as tantalum, hafnium, and tellurium show depletion trends. The trading range in the metal trade the usual manner 10 to 20% higher.

BE: Is it for your company at all interesting to supply retail customers or are you collaborating with distributors for small deliveries to private homes?

Even as larger trading company, we look forward to every customer and ensure a competent, based on years of service experience. Each customer, whether he now buys 1 kg or 100 kg of indium, tantalum is just treated as an industrial consumer. For several years we have worked successfully with companies that have created the special baskets for consumers. Leading role in this market is the Schweizerische Metallhandels AG / Switzerland, which brought the first company to a sustainable system for investors in the market. This trained and experienced intermediaries has developed standardized solutions to investors to provide with smaller sums, the opportunity to participate in the development of strategic special metals.

BE: Is there or are you planning it, the metals are VAT-free to keep investors in a bonded warehouse ?

No, this service leaves Haines & Maassen companies like the Swiss metal trading SMH AG, which take on a pioneering role in this field. We see our task in the expert advice and supplies to customers. This has meant that our company has occupied in the commercial sector is not more than 70% of jobs with academics. Chemists, economists, certified interpreter and aspiring metallurgist to join our team. . This allows us a targeted advice at a high level.

BE: Which of you offer metals were the highest price increases in recent years?

There are a number of metals such as rare earths (neodymium, cerium, lanthanum, …) and tellurium, tantalum, indium, gallium, hafnium, and that have experienced including price developments of more than 100%. Appears much more important to us, however, that the price developments of several of these elements in the long term exceed the inflation rate and thus suitable as a value assurance.

BE: Which you can see because of the supply situation and the future demand (particularly by new technologies), the highest price appreciation potential?

This would I got the book “Strategic Metals for investors,” by Michael and me Vaupel point, which is launched in early November. Here it is precisely this question at the center. Of promising innovations will be closed to the required raw materials, which then permits a conclusion on price trends. We specifically do not want to move a single metal in the foreground, but on the contrary believe that a healthy mixture of different metals, the better alternative. BE: Which metals has China as the rare-earth quasi-supply monopoly , China has some metals offer a market share exceeding 50%. about 90% antimony, bismuth, germanium, about 67% about 67%, 60% indium, about 67% silicon and tungsten over 80%. These are just the elements in which China holds more than 50%. There is also a long list of substances for which the People’s Republic plays a significant role.

BE: Some metals are toxic or dangerous now. Is not that problematic when investors rush to such materials and store them at home? Or. even allowed all metals to be delivered?

Yes, clearly this is problematic and it is forbidden even in a single well. The delivery of some metals to individuals such as arsenic, selenium and tellurium are not only forbidden, but also jeopardize the customer. The transport is subject to restrictions. Here it is important that it is made ​​clear in the consultation, where the boundaries of a private storage are located.

BE: What are the traded you metals for investors at all in question and which are ruled out?

This question is very complex and I would again like to the book “Special Metal for Strategic Investors” link. There are plenty of metals that can store private (indium, tantalum, etc.), and there are metals that can be stored without problems by specialist companies (gallium, tellurium, etc.). When no sense can be considered elements that can fail either due to technical reasons (explosive, very toxic ..) or claim due to a relatively low price, very substantial storage space would be (lithium, manganese …).

BE: Why are entirely at your rare earths?

Excluded from the program they are not, if a customer wants to purchase rare earths we can offer him.

BE: Which of the traded you metals are traded on commodity exchanges?

To reach Western markets, these are only molybdenum and cobalt in the form of oxides. In China, there are over 200 raw evil, but they are for the West not accessible or meaningful.

BE: Do you think the interest in physical metal investment for temporary or if the stay a permanent plant-fixed point?

I am personally of the opinion that the trend towards be physical forms of investment is long term and sustainable. Haines & Maassen has set himself definitely on this development and the capacity significantly. For about six months, we have another large warehouse, which predominantly serves the industry as a reloading and packaging facility.

BE: How serious is the market for metals from the perspective of potential investors?

Romp around many charlatans of the matter actually have no idea (push-columns, rushing into this, what’s currently on the market)? Unfortunately, there are black sheep in every industry. It certainly makes sense to find out exactly and above all, the costs can be expected for an investment of over 10 years. It is often cheaper to pay a few percent at the beginning to press for more and ongoing costs. Especially when storage costs are frightening models that cause within 5 years, considerable cost.

BE: Mr. Maassen, thank you for your time!

Source: http://www.foonds.com

Solar cell breakthrough could hit 40 percent efficiency

Ultraviolet light spurs nanocrystals to change size and emit different, more colorful light, researchers say.

Researchers using novel materials to build photovoltaic cells say their efforts could nearly double the efficiency of silicon-based solar cells.

The cells being developed by teams from the University of Arkansas and Arkansas State University have the potential to achieve a light-to-energy conversion rate, or solar efficiency, of 40 percent or better, according to the researchers.

The photovoltaic cells are intended for use in satellites and space instruments. Currently, the silicon-based solar cells that NASA uses in its satellites and instruments have efficiencies of only up to 23 percent, according to NASA statistics.

And today it was announced that the research teams are getting more money–a total of $1 million in new funding–to further their work. Of that, about $735,000 will come from NASA, $237,000 from the University of Arkansas, and $86,000 from Arkansas State.

Omar Manasreh, professor of electrical engineering at the Optoelectronics Research Lab at the University of Arkansas, has been developing the technology so far with a $1.3 million grant from the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research. He leads the research team along with Liangmin Zhang, assistant professor at Arkansas State.

“It [the grant] will create new opportunities for further development in the field of novel photovoltaic materials and devices,” Manasreh said in a statement.

Manasreh has been testing two separate methods for growing metallic nanoparticles using a novel combination of materials as the semiconductor. While CIGS (copper, indium, gallium and selenium) solar cells are not uncommon, Manasreh is using a variation of CIGS-based cells–CuInSe2 and CuInGaSe2–to generate molecules that bind to a central atom and that are known as volatile ligands. The nanocrystals can then be converted into thin-film solar cells, or incorporated into nanotubes, by combining the material with either titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. His second approach uses indium arsenide (InAs) a material commonly used in infrared detectors.

“The second approach uses molecular beam epitaxy, a method of depositing nanocrystals, to create quantum dots made of indium arsenide (InAs). Quantum dots are nano-sized particles of semiconductor material,” according to the University of Arkansas.

When exposed to ultraviolet light, the nanocrystals grown in liquid emit brighter light enhancing the response of the nanocrystals. The phenomenon shows the potential to increase the energy conversion efficiency of the materials (see photo).

This research team isn’t the first to experiment with growing nanoparticles using liquid. In 2007, Calif-based company Innovalight developed a “silicon ink” for creating crystalline silicon solar cells that works by inserting nanoparticles into a solvent, pouring the liquid on a substrate, and then removing the liquid to be left with a silicon crystalline structure. At the time, the solar cells made from the method had a 22 percent efficiency. Innovalight was acquired by Dupont earlier this year.

by Candace Lombardi
Source: news.cnet.com