By Katia Moskvitch
BBC News, 11 January 2012
The US Department of Energy is giving $120m (£75m) to set up a new research centre charged with developing new methods of rare earth production.
Rare earths are 17 chemically similar elements crucial to making many hi-tech products, such as phones and PCs.
The Critical Materials Institute will be located in Ames, Iowa.
The US wants to reduce its dependency on China, which produces more than 95% of the world's rare earth elements, and address local shortages.
According to the US Geological Survey, there may be deposits of rare earths in 14 US states.
Besides being used for hi-tech gadgets, the elements are also crucial for manufacturing low-carbon resources such as wind turbines, solar panels and electric cars, said David Danielson, the US assistant secretary for renewable energy.
“The Critical Materials Institute will bring together the best and brightest research minds from universities, national laboratories and the private sector to find innovative technology solutions that will help us avoid a supply shortage that would threaten our clean energy industry as well as our security interests,” he said in a statement.
Rare earth elements are also used for military applications, such as advanced optics technologies, radar and radiation detection equipment, and advanced communications systems, according to a 2011 research report by the US Government Accountability Office.
Phi Beta Iota: An Open Source Agency (OSA) at IOC $125M and FOC $3B, would be a vastly better investment. Once again pork finds a home and a new stove-pipe is being built.
Used to make powerful magnets used in loudspeakers and computer hard drives to enable them to be smaller and more efficient., as well as in green technologies such as wind turbines and hybrid cars.
Used in camera and telescope lenses. Compounds containing lanthanum are used extensively in carbon lighting applications, such as cinema projection.
Used in catalytic converters in cars, enabling them to run at high temperatures and playing a crucial role in the chemical reactions in the converter.
Used to create strong metals used in aircraft engines. Praseodymium is also a component of a special sort of glass, used to make visors of welders and glassmakers.
Used in X-ray and MRI scanning, and also in TV screens. Research is also being done into its possible use in developing more efficient refrigeration systems.
– Yttrium, terbium, europium
Important in making TV and computer screens and other devices that have visual displays as they are used in making materials that give off different colours. Europium is also used in making control rods in nuclear reactors.