Thursday, July 17, 2014
Metals With Names You Never Heard Of.
Recently,in the course of work I came to be acquainted with rare metals with names that I never heard of: Antimony is not a spice, Yttrium is not a Swedish word, Dysprosium is not a medical condition, Germanium is not a flower,These are all a class of metals known as Rare Metals. Few are aware that these metals are strategic to the modern economy, as they are essential components of many modern industrial processes. This is because these metals have properties such as high electrical conductivity, hardness, corrosion resistance, high refractive index, high melting point, strength and light weight. All these properties are required for many products of the modern industrial economy: Electronic capacitors, missile parts, jet engine fan blades, machine tools and drills, semi-conductor etching, surgical instruments, nuclear reactors, chemical processing plants, LEDs and LCDS, X-rays, fibre optics, hard glass and ceramics... the list is endless.
These materials are so important, and sometimes they are found only in a few places in the world, that governments worry about being vulnerable to disruptions to supply. The US government annually compiles a list of expected shortfalls, and stockpiles them as strategic materials whose supply can be disrupted by enemies, natural disasters, wars etc. Here are some of the rare metals:
Antimony, Yttrium, Tungsten, Bismuth, Germanium, Dysprosium, Fluorite, Beryllium, Erbium, Gallium, Terbium, Thulium, Scandium, Tantalum, Lithium.
Chart below is from U.S. Report on stockpiling of Strategic Metals.
Note: Some rare metals do have more ordinary usage: Bismuth is actually what they put in Pepto Bismol the indigestion medication. Fluoride is used in fluorescent lighting, and also your toothpaste. Beryllium in its natural form is the precious stone Emerald. And Scandium is used as an alloy in many sports equipment that require toughness as well as lightness in weight. e.g. golf clubs, baseball bats and racing bicycle frame.And by now, most people are familiar with Lithium as used in batteries.