Many scientists believe that global warming is caused by a human-driven increase in greenhouse gases in the earth's atmosphere. With our society becoming more aware of the part we have to play in addressing global warming, governments of today are now legislating higher environmental and lower emission standards in both domestic and industrial settings. Rare earths are playing a pivotal role in greenhouse gas reduction through their unique application in automotive catalytic converters, hybrid vehicles, wind turbines, and energy efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs.
The digital era continues to gather pace; broadband access, digital television, digital cameras, and digital music are around us at home and on the move – rare earths are enablers of this technology and its miniaturisation. New materials and novel applications enable companies to produce more efficient, higher performance materials, which meet the demand for faster, smaller and lighter products.
Increased population and economic growth leads to greater demand of the world's energy, which means increased use of our limited fossil fuel reserves. Rare earths are already playing a vital role in conservation of these reserves, and are likely to play an even larger role in taking us forward to the hydrogen economy.The world's fossil fuels are limited, however with the billions of dollars invested in the global oil and gas infrastructure, it is important we use these reserves efficiently.
Rare earths are supporting the uptake of energy efficient initiatives through their unique physical and chemical properties, which allow them to protect the environment (by lowering energy consumption), and improve lifestyles (through energy efficient alternatives that save money without sacrificing comfort and reliability).
Rapid global industrialisation and population growth has placed increased pressure on the availability of raw materials. Because of their specific optical, magnetic and catalytic properties, rare earths are used in a variety of applications:
- Wind turbines. NdFeB magnet enables direct drive wind turbines technology providing better electrical yield, reduced maintenance and improved reliability (no gear box).
- Automotive catalyst. Cerium-based new technology enables Lean NOx Trap – a very compact catalytic system that allows diesel compact cars to match with NOx emission regulation
- Hybrid, plug hybrid and electrical vehicles. A fast growing segment which contributes to controlling pollution at its point of emission
- Vehicles in general. NdFeB magnet enables substantial weight reduction contributing to overall energy savings and reduction of CO2 emission