Rare Earth Elements

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Holly
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           Rare Earth Elements (REEs) are a grouping of elements, all metals, listed in the periodic table.  While most of the seventeen elements are found in abundance in our soils and geological formations, the problems lies in the fact that these elements are not found in veins or quantities large enough to mine.
     ;     ;  Why is this important?  This is crucial because all electronic devices use REEs for operation.  As do most rechargeable batteries, magnets, florescent lighting, catalytic converters, glass polishing and so much more. China currently mines and markets the majority of REEs which concerns the rest of the world.  Since Rare Earth elements are necessary for modern life to function, more than one source is preferable.  But, there is a large untapped source, recycled REEs.  These are most prevalent in the devices and equipment already manufactured and considered defunct so it is ready to be recycled.  Since countries that use REEs are primarily dependent on china for their supply, the fact that recycling could provide an adequate supply of “invisible stock” to cover demand for a ten year period is good news.  And even better news for the environment.
     ;     ;  However, and there is always a caveat, at present removing the elements from used equipment is hazardous at best and carcinogenic at worst.  We need to find a method of safe removal.  Any ideas? 

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Holly
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Joined: 08/15/2011