Our phones wouldn’t be the same without rare earth elements: They’re found in our LCD display screens, the motors that make our phones vibrate, the speakers – all that to make our phones small and awesome.
Other technologies also depend on REEs: Microphones, TVs, electric and hybrid vehicles, headphones, X-ray machines … the list goes on.
But the problem with these materials is that more than 95% of our supply comes from China, putting some tech companies and other users at the mercy of Chinese suppliers.
South Korea’s Samsung is looking for alternatives. Through its Future Technology Cultivation Project, the massive manufacturing conglomerate plans on financing 27 projects, including research on materials that can substitute the use of rare earths, ZDNet reports.
Unveiling the plans last week, Samsung said it would invest in seven areas of research into new materials.
When China announced that it would restrict REE supplies in 2010, car manufacturers began looking for other options. At the time, Jack Lifton, co-founder of Technology Metals Research, said that the industry would “engineer this stuff out.” And indeed, in 2012 Hitachi introduced an energy-efficient motor that doesn’t use rare earths.