Friday, 24 September 2010

Doom by Chinese Rare Earth Embargo?

There has been much talk about our nascent green technology being stymied by the Chinese (who not unreasonably) need the supply of rare earths for themselves.
This is allegedly a concern because the Chinese has 90%+ of the world production and that without rare earths (specifically neodymium and dysprosium) you can't make high magnetic flux permanent magnets.

Which just happen to be the magnets that are an absolute REQUIREMENT for motors and gearboxes in wind turbines as well as motors in hybrid or electric cars.

So we're all so fricken DOOOOOOOOOMED right? (Hit's Savinar's call center on speed dial: Get me 365 days supply of MRE's, 10,000 rounds of ammo and some broad spectrum antibiotics in case of being bitten by zombies).

Well, in fact, nuh-uh.

Hitachi America beig a good corporate citizen doesn't like having it's balls squeezed by the Chinese so it has been conducting a research campaign for the last ten years because they PREDICTED THIS.

They have now successfully developed (with a lot of sweat and R&D effort)a high magnetic flux magnet composed of olde-fashioned ferric oxides. No rare metals there.

Hitachi's new ferrite oxide magnet has more or less the same level of performance as equivelant rare earth motors.
Right now they haven't (yet) been able to scale it to the size needed for motor vehicles but they're on the case.

That said, even if they can't scale it large enough, there are better gearboxes currently being developed which will allow the size of the motor to be smaller.

Sorry Doomers, still no cigar.

No comments: