Nature Magazine reports Japan and Vietnam are collaborating to take on China’s virtual monopoly on supply of rare earth elements that are essential high-tech electronics components and difficult to obtain in a useable form. China produces 98% of the global supply.
The partnership is aimed at streamlining extraction and processing — partly to help Vietnam, believed to have abundant rare earths, supply rare earths to Japan, the second largest consumer of the elements behind China. Japan and Vietnam are starting their venture by establishing a joint research center in Hanoi.
Rare earth elements include scandium, yttrium and 15 other elements towards the bottom of the periodic table. They have optical and magnetic properties needed in light-emitting diodes and batteries, among other high-tech applications.
China is believed to have 55 million tons of rare-earth elements, half of the world’s total, but Vietnam is eager to offer an alternative source.
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