Japan and Vietnam Challenge China's Rare Earth Metals Expertise
Japan and Vietnam are teaming up to study how to better extract rare earth minerals, which are essential to many high-tech devices. The two countries aim to break China's stronghold on the minerals' supply, Nature News reported.
Rare earth metals are difficult to isolate, while their unique properties make them invaluable to the production of microchips, solar panels, LED lighting and more. Though many countries have some rare earth metals within their borders, China produces about 98 percent of the world's supply, according to a report by the U.S. Congressional Research Service.
The country has restricted exports, driving up prices. Researchers in China have the greatest expertise in the world in extracting rare earth minerals, Corby Anderson, a metals engineer at the Colorado School of Mines, told Nature News.
The new Rare Earth Research and Technology Transfer Center opened June 16 in Hanoi, with $5.3 million (420 million yen) in equipment. The center has not publicized details about its planned projects, but Nature News reported that researchers from Japan and Vietnam will study separating and concentrating the vital metals.