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Thread: China ready to hit back at U.S. with rare earths

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    Default China ready to hit back at U.S. with rare earths

    Business News
    May 28, 2019 / 10:53 PM / Updated 2 hours ago
    China ready to hit back at U.S. with rare earths: newspapers:


    BEIJING (Reuters) - China is ready to use rare earths to strike back in a trade war with the United States, Chinese newspapers warned on Wednesday in strongly worded commentaries on a move that would escalate tensions between the world’s two largest economies.

    President Xi Jinping’s visit to a rare earths plant last week had sparked speculation that China would use its dominant position as an exporter of rare earths to the United States as leverage in the trade war.

    Rare earths are a group of 17 chemical elements used in everything from high-tech consumer electronics to military equipment. The prospect that their value could soar as a result of the trade war caused sharp increases in the share prices of producers, including the company visited by Xi.

    These are the Rare Earths

    Scandium or Sc (21) Scandium, a silvery-white metal, is a non- lanthanide rare earth. ...
    Yttrium or Y (39) ...
    Lanthanum or La (57) ...
    Cerium or Ce (58) ...
    Praseodymium or Pr (59) ...
    Neodymium or Nd (60) ...
    Promethium or Pm (61) ...
    Samarium or Sm (62)

    What Are Rare Earths?


    There are 17 elements that are considered to be rare earth elements—15 elements in the lanthanide series and two additional elements that share similar chemical properties. They are listed below in order of atomic number (Z):

    Scandium or Sc (21)

    Scandium, a silvery-white metal, is a non-lanthanide rare earth. It is used in many popular consumer products, such as televisions and fluorescent or energy-saving lamps. In industry, the primary use of scandium is to strengthen metal compounds. The only concentrated sources of scandium currently known are in rare minerals such as thortveitite, euxenite, and gadolinite from Scandinavia and Madagascar.

    Yttrium or Y (39)

    Yttrium is a non-lanthanide rare earth element used in many vital applications, such as superconductors, powerful pulsed lasers, cancer treatment drugs, rheumatoid arthritis medicines, and surgical supplies. A silvery metal, it is also used in many popular consumer products, such as color televisions and camera lenses.

    Lanthanum or La (57)

    This silver-white metal is one of the most reactive rare earth elements. It is used to make special optical glasses, including infrared absorbing glass, camera and telescope lenses, and can also be used to make steel more malleable. Other applications for lanthanum include wastewater treatment and petroleum refining.

    Cerium or Ce (58)

    Named for the Roman goddess of agriculture, Ceres, cerium is a silvery-white metal that easily oxidizes in the air. It is the most abundant of the rare earth elements and has many uses. For instance, cerium oxide is used as a catalyst in catalytic converters in automotive exhaust systems to reduce emissions, and is highly desirable for precision glass polishing. Cerium can also be used in iron, magnesium and aluminum alloys, magnets, certain types of electrodes, and carbon-arc lighting.

    Praseodymium or Pr (59)

    This soft, silvery metal was first used to create a yellow-orange stain for ceramics. Although still used to color certain types of glasses and gemstones, praseodymium is primarily used in rare earth magnets. It can also be found in applications as diverse as creating high-strength metals found in aircraft engines and in flint for starting fires.

    Neodymium or Nd (60)

    Another soft, silvery metal, neodymium is used with praseodymium to create some of the strongest permanent magnets available. Such magnets are found in most modern vehicles and aircraft, as well as popular consumer electronics such as headphones, microphones and computer discs. Neodymium is also used to make high-powered, infrared lasers for industrial and defense applications.

    Promethium or Pm (61)

    Although the search for the element with atomic number 61 began in 1902, it was not until 1947 that scientists conclusively produced and characterized promethium, which is named for a character in Greek mythology. It is the only naturally radioactive rare earth element, and virtually all promethium in the earth’s crust has long ago decayed into other elements. Today, it is largely artificially created, and used in watches, pacemakers, and in scientific research.

    Samarium or Sm (62)

    This silvery metal can be used in several vital ways. First, it is part of very powerful magnets used in many transportation, defense, and commercial technologies. Second, in conjunction with other compounds for intravenous radiation treatment it can kill cancer cells and is used to treat lung, prostate, breast and some forms of bone cancer. Because it is a stable neutron absorber, samarium is used to control rods of nuclear reactors, contributing to their safe use.

    Europium or Eu (63)

    Named for the continent of Europe, europium is a hard metal used to create visible light in compact fluorescent bulbs and in color displays. Europium phosphors help bring bright red to color displays and helped to drive the popularity of early generations of color television sets. Fittingly, it is used to make the special phosphors marks on Euro notes that prevent counterfeiting.

    Gadolinium or Gd (64)

    Gadolinium has particular properties that make it especially suited for important functions, such as shielding in nuclear reactors and neutron radiography. It can target tumors in neuron therapy and can enhance magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), assisting in both the treatment and diagnosis of cancer. X-rays and bone density tests can also use gadolinium, making this rare earth element a major contributor to modern health care solutions.

    Terbium or Tb (65)

    This silvery rare earth metal is so soft it can be cut with a knife. Terbium is often used in compact fluorescent lighting, color displays, and as an additive to permanent rare earth magnets to allow them to function better under higher temperatures. It can be found in fuel cells designed to operate at elevated temperatures, in some electronic devices and in naval sonar systems. Discovered in 1843, terbium in its alloy form has the highest magnetostriction of any such substance, meaning it changes its shape due to magnetization more than any other alloy. This property makes terbium a vital component of Terfenol-D, which has many important uses in defense and commercial technologies.

    Dysprosium or Dy (66)

    Another soft, silver metal, dysprosium has one of the highest magnetic strengths of the elements, matched only by holmium. Dysprosium is often added to permanent rare earth magnets to help them operate more efficiently at higher temperatures. Lasers and commercial lighting can use dysprosium, which may also be used to create hard computer disks and other electronics that require certain magnetic properties. Dysprosium may also be used in nuclear reactors and modern, energy-efficient vehicles.

    Holmium or Ho (67)

    Holmium was discovered in 1878 and named for the city of Stockholm. Along with dysprosium, holmium has incredible magnetic properties. In fact, some of the strongest artificially created magnetic fields are the result of magnetic flux concentrators made with holmium alloys. In addition to providing coloring to cubic zirconia and glass, holmium can be used in nuclear control rods and microwave equipment.

    Erbium or Er (68)

    Another rare earth with nuclear applications, erbium can be found in neutron-absorbing control rods. It is a key component of high-performance fiber optic communications systems, and can also be used to give glass and other materials a pink color, which has both aesthetic and industrial purposes. Erbium can also help create lasers, including some used for medical purposes.

    Thulium or Tm (69)

    A silvery-gray metal, thulium is one of the least abundant rare earths. Its isotopes are widely used as the radiation device in portable X-rays, making thulium a highly useful material. Thulium is also a component of highly efficient lasers with various uses in defense, medicine and meteorology.

    Ytterbium or Yb (70)

    This element, named for a village in Sweden associated with its discovery, has several important uses in health care, including in certain cancer treatments. Ytterbium can also enhance stainless steel and be used to monitor the effects of earthquakes and explosions on the ground.

    Lutetium or Lu (71)

    The last of the rare earth elements (in order of their atomic number) has several interesting uses. For instance, lutetium isotopes can help reveal the age of ancient items, like meteorites. It also has applications related to petroleum refining and positron emission tomography. Experimentally, lutetium isotopes have been used to target certain types of tumors.

    Collectively, the rare earth elements contribute to vital technologies we rely on today for safety, health and comfort. All of the rare earth elements contribute to the advancement of modern technologies and to promising discoveries yet to come.

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    Default Re: China ready to hit back at U.S. with rare earths

    Another point of view:

    "Rare earth elements aren’t the secret weapon China thinks they are

    Despite the name, rare earths just aren’t that rare"

    By James Vincent May 23, 2019, 12:04pm EDT


    One particularly chaotic option would be a ban on the export of rare earths — raw materials that are crucial for electronics. These elements are produced mostly in China, and used in the US for everything from electric cars to wind turbines, smartphones to missiles.

    Chinese state media have backed the idea, calling America’s dependence on Chinese rare earths “an ace in Beijing’s hand.” President Xi Jinping hinted at that possibility when he visited a rare earth facility at the beginning of this week. (As a ministry spokesperson commented with what seemed like a nod and a wink: “It is normal that the top leader investigates relevant industrial policies. I hope everyone can interpret it correctly.”)

    Rare earth elements are sometimes described as the “vitamins of chemistry,” as small doses produce powerful salutary effects. A sprinkle of cerium here and a pinch of neodymium there makes TV screens brighter, batteries last longer, and magnets stronger. If China suddenly shut off access to these materials, it would be like rewinding the tech industry back a few decades. And no one wants to ditch their iPhone and go back to a BlackBerry.

    Experts in the field, though, are much less concerned about such a chilling scenario. They say that while a restriction on rare earth exports would have some immediate adverse effects, the US and the rest of the world would adapt in the long run. “If China really cuts off supply entirely then there are short term problems,” Tim Worstall, a former rare earth trader and commodities blogger tells The Verge. “But they’re solvable.”

    Far from being an ace in the hole, it turns out rare earths are more of a busted flush.

    A group of 17 elements, rare earths are what the USGS (United States Geological Survey) describe as “moderately abundant.” That means they’re not as common as oxygen, silicon, and iron, which make up the vast majority of the Earth’s crust, but some are on a par with elements like copper and lead, which we don’t consider exotic or scarce. Significant deposits exist in China, but also Brazil, Canada, Australia, India, and the United States.

    As Eugene Gholz, a rare earth expert and associate professor of political science at the University of Notre Dame puts it: “Once you take it out of the ground, the big challenge is chemistry not mining; converting the rare earths from rock to separated elements.”

    Unlike convincing that drunk friend, though, this process involves a series of acid baths and unhealthy doses of radiation. This is one of the reasons that countries like the US have been more or less happy to cede production of rare earths to China. It’s a messy, dangerous business, so why not let someone else do it? Other factors also helped, including lower labor costs and the existence of Chinese mines that produce rare earths as a byproduct.
    Last edited by ramus; 29th May 2019 at 12:54.

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    Default Re: China ready to hit back at U.S. with rare earths

    It looks like Scandium is going to become Scantium for the US.... Sorry I couldn't resist.

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