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This element has an atomic number of 75 and a symbol of Re on the periodic table of the elements. Rhenium is found in the earth’s crust at a concentration of approximately 1 ppm (parts per billion). The name rhenium comes from the Latin Rhenus meaning Rhine. This rare strategic metal was discovered in Germany in 1925 by Walter Noddack, Otto Berg and Ida Tacke hence the name Rhenium named after the river Rhine. The metal was the last stable element to be discovered. It is considered a transition metal.
Rhenium is so rare that is not directly mined. It is a by-product of copper and molybdenum mining. To put it in perspective the team at GE (General Electric), put this together.
“It takes, on Average, approximately 120 metric tons (264,554 pounds) or the equivalent weight of 44 Cadillac Escalade SUV´s- of copper ore to produce 1 ounce of rhenium- or the equivalent of five U.S. quarter coins.”
Total world production of Rhenium is between 40 and 50 metric tons per year. The top producers are Chile, United States, Kazakhstan and Peru. Recycling Rhenium also provides approximately 10 metric tons to the annual supply.
Rhenium is so important to industry because it has the third highest melting point of all elements. Tungsten and Carbon are the only elements with higher melting points. Rhenium has a few uses but 70% of all that is used per year, is used in the aviation industry. Rhenium is used in High temperature superalloys. The largest users of Rhenium in industry are Rolls Royce, General Electric and Pratt & Whitney. These companies use up to 6% rhenium content in the nickel-based superalloys in their jet engines. The strategic metal is used in such aircraft engines as the F-15, F-16, F-22 and the F-35. This metal is critical to national defense.
Uses of Rhenium
- Superalloys in combination with nickel, tungsten and molybdenum
- Thermocouples in combination with tungsten for measuring temperatures up to 2200°C
- Filaments for mass spectrographs and ion gauges
- Photoflash lamps for photography
- Treating liver cancer
The continuing rise in demand of the strategic metal has put pressure on the supply side. Over the last few years the price of Rhenium has been rising steadily. This has forced companies like General Electric to find more creative ways to recycle the element. Investors have also been buying the metal and storing it through companies like Swiss Metal Assets in their Defense basket of metals. It will be interesting to see what the future holds for rhenium and the other rare strategic metals.
Research and Markets now offers a comprehensive research report titled ‘Molybdenum Markets in the Electronics and Solar Industries – 2011’ from NanoMarkets.
NanoMarkets has been offering research reports on various markets such as lighting, display and photovolatics materials for the past several years. In the new report, NanoMarkets discusses the way of operations of these markets and their major players. The report provides an in-depth analysis of the electronics and energy related markets wherein molybdenum is used. It also includes revenue forecast for eight years.
In recent years, molybdenum has found new opportunities in the growth-oriented electronics and energy markets. Especially, the material has a significant share as an electrode material in the market for CIGS solar panels. This is one-of-its-kind report that discusses the market for molybdenum exclusively in the growth-oriented energy and electronics markets.
According to NanoMarkets, since molybdenum demonstrates strong adhesion to active layers and substrates, its usage in the solar panel market will increase continuously. The report predicts that molybdenum finds a huge prospect in the fast growing CdTe segment. Besides being used in the solar market, molybdenum finds interesting applications in OLED electrodes. The material has a bright future in other sectors such as related to display and lighting.
In the electronics industry, molybdenum has been used in conventional applications such as in magnetrons and in x-ray system components. Due to its high price, the material is used in combination with low cost materials such as aluminum in most of its applications.
By: Cameron Chai
China, as the world’s largest steel producer, is the world’s largest consumer of molybdenum. China is also the world’s largest moly-producing country (although North America is the largest producing region). According to the International Molybdenum Association, use of molybdenum in transportation, power generation, building and construction will likely increase by 6 percent each year through 2019. This view was shared by Roskill last year, who saw under-investment in molybdenum projects in 2009 and 2010 having consequences for supply as far ahead as 2015. So if demand is strong and supply is constrained, why have prices fallen this year, and could the predicted long-term price / demand trend be at risk?
Iron ore demand and steel production in the world’s largest steel market, China, have remained strong this year, yet molybdenum imports have not kept pace. As an article in the Tex Report states, the Chinese Iron and Steel Association (CISA) released data showing that steel production in September was up 3.1 percent from August.
The total annualized run rate of production is over 700 million tons, compared year-over-year with 2010, when China produced just over 550 million tons. The global steel production growth rate stands at 9.8 percent, although recent numbers suggest a distinct softening everywhere except Asia. China, however, has been pushing 13.8 percent this year. The continued strength of steel production in China would suggest that molybdenum, an essential in high-strength steel production, would also be equally well supported. But as the table below shows, China has swung to becoming a net exporter of moly oxide.
Although June and July saw imports exceed exports as domestic mines in China are brought on-stream, it is expected that China will increasingly seek to rely on domestic molybdenum concentrate supply rather than imports, resulting in ongoing pressure on prices. Molybdenum has fallen to below $14/lb, and unless Chinese merchants decide to step back into the market to opportunistically import, global demand is likely to remain bereft of Chinese buying.
While domestic prices have followed the global trend in broad terms, this graph of ferro-moly prices in China taken from the MetalMiner IndX shows they have not been as volatile:
With slowing demand in China inevitably feeding through into slowing steel growth, the chances of China resuming imports on a consistent basis looks unlikely. Good news for moly consumers in the West, who were harboring concerns earlier that supply constraints would prompt a return to higher prices next year.
by Stuart Burns