Iron replaces Rare Earth in Hitachi motor

Rare earth elements
Rare earth metals have become increasingly strategic since the 2002 closure of the Mountain Pass open-pit mine in California USA leaving Chinese producers with 95% of market. The mine was closed due to low price of rare earth elements and environmental restrictions due to production of high amounts of toxic and radioactive thorium and radium contaminated waste water (the mine was discovered by a uranium prospector due to high radioactivity). Chinese productions has become increasing centralised and regulated to ensure supply to Chinese industry and to restrict pollution in China. Producers in other countries have warned that green technologies (like motors for wind generators, solar cell production) are reliant on the use of rare-earth elements.

Rare Earth Production in 1000’s of tonnes (Original Source USGS))

Mountain Pass production is being re-initiated with $500 million dollars spent to reopen and expand the mine (money raised by initial public offering of Molycorp) and was expected to be in full production by mid-2012.

On September 22, 2010 China quietly enacted a ban on exports of rare-earths to Japan, which also produces a small amount of rare earth elements itself. Recently China has policy of reducing exports of rare earth and consolidating mining into state-owned companies. Other countries have protested these moves, but China cites environmental reasons which is an exception under World Trade Organisation agreements (China Joined in Nov 2001). I think there case is strengthened by the fact that only 35% of proven reserves of rare earth elements are in China but 95-97% of production takes place there. According to UK Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, companies which process rare earth materials deal with processing of rare earth materials may face shortages, but since China seems happy to export products made from rare earth materials, like motors, companies making electric vehicles or wind turbines are not yet alarmed. Neodymium, praseodymium and dysprosium can be used in motors. Currently 4% of motors used in wind turbines use rare-earths but the figure is anticipated to rise.

What are rare earth elements
Rare earth elements are usually regarded as the lanthanides, scandium and yttrium, as all exhibit similar chemical properties. Global production is around 124,000 tonnes in oxide form.
Major mining initiatives are under-way in reopening of Mountain Pass, and two sites in Australia; Mount Weld and Nolans. Each expected to produce 20,000 tonnes annually by 2013/2014.

Element Example Applications
Scandium metal alloys for the aerospace industry
Lanthanum batteries, catalysts for petroleum refining
Cerium catalysts, polishing, metal alloys
Praseodymium improved magnet corrosion resistance, pigment
Neodymium high power magnets for laptops, lasers
Promethium beta radiation source
Samarium high temperature magnets, reactor control rods
Europium liquid crystal displays, fluorescent lighting
Gadolinium magnetic resonance imaging contrast agent
Terbium phosphors for lighting and display
Dysprosium high power magnets, lasers
Holmium highest power magnets known
Erbium lasers, glass colourant
Thulium ceramic magnetic materials under development
Ytterbium fibre optic technology, solar panels
Lutetium X-ray phosphors

Table: Applications of Rare-Earths, Source: Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, Note No. 368, 2011.

Replacement or Rare-Earths

Not all motors rely on rare earth magnets, or on permanent magnets for their operation. Japan have previously announced replacement of non-rare earth based magnets, Tesla Motors are an example of a company which has opted for induction motors for their electric vehicles (should necessitate use of inverter to produce AC current).

Recently Hitachi have announced the development of a new motor with an iron core based on a proprietary amorphous metal. This means the core of the motor will be ferromagnetic rather than a permanent magnet and the amorphous metal is able to switch magnetisation with low hysteresis losses.


Engineers are Terror-ble?

Engineers are angry – Beware!

Are engineers statistically more likely to be terrorists than other disciplines (or rather terrorists are more likely to be engineers) . If that is explained by greater ability to do something once they decide (they don’t have to learn much new to make a bomb etc.). They have ability to learn how to fly a plane? Or if it can be explained by their disappointment with engineering/science.

As discussed here Slate / Build-a-Bomber and here Fred Borz/ Are engineers more likely to become terrorists a study (reported as an essay in new scientist) found that among muslims, engineers were 3-4 times more likely to become terrorists. Also 60% of `muslim terrorists’ born in the west had engineering backgrounds.

Actually it seems like the disappointment from thwarted expectations is what made these people angry.

Gambetta and Hertog propose that a lack of appropriate jobs in their home countries may have radicalized some engineers in Arab countries. The graduates they studied came of age at a time when a degree from a competitive technical program was supposed to provide a guarantee of high-status employment. But the promises of modernization and development were often stymied by repression and corruption, and many young engineers in the 1980s were left jobless and frustrated.

Regarding American domestic terrorists I am not sure the trend holds true…
The Unabomber is said to be a talented mathematician, more likely to target engineers then be one. Timothy McVeigh left the education system after high school.

Boeing 787 Dreamliner Launch

The Boeing Dreamliner was launched for the first test flight yesterday.

The Boeing 787 is around the same size as 767-300. However the 787 is planned to be 20% more fuel-efficient than the 767. The efficiency comes equally from improvements in the engines, aerodynamics and reduced weight by use of composite materials, and the use of improved systems.

20% improvement in efficiency should translate into a 15% saving in operational efficiency.

Each plane can interchangeably use either the General Electric GEnx or Rolls-Royce Trent 1000, due to the design of a common interface. The Rolls-Royce engine was used for the test-flight.

Something americans need to know… about RON PAUL

If you are American and you believe your country should be for the American people, you should really check out RON PAUL.

Being that rarest of thing, an Honest Politician, seemingly an oxymoron, an enigma wrapped in contradiction… I think it only works because the Truth is so needed, and in such short supply.

Ron Paul may be the only candidate who is interested in saving your country, and has spent the time thinking about what really needs to be done.

He’s a true conservative, and truly compassionate. He knows you can’t afford to continue the needless war in Iraq, and you won’t be able to pay for the domestic spending promises either without changing course now.

A truly passionate and educated man, it’s time to hear his message.

You know I feel embarrassed to believe a politician can be a good person. Look at his voting record, he really votes as he believes the constitution dictates, because he knows the rule of law is paramount to maintain any nation. Change the laws if they are anachronistic, but you can’t ignore them!

US Presidential candidates court over-weight voters

Worth watching this special report by the Onion News Network on the lengths the presidential candidates are prepared to go to in garnering votes.

[Can’t embed movie here]

Iowa Caucus’

Google maps displayed the results of the Iowa Caucus’ (part of the process to decide the candidates for the U.S. president) live on their website, you can see the final results here:
Election results.

Barrack Obama and John Edwards both received more support than the much touted Hilary Clinton – looking at the number of votes cast the three are about equal with not much competition after that. Mike Huckabee did very well in the republican voting, followed by Romney, Thompson, McCain and Ron Paul (polled around 10% but won one county despite being largely ignored by the main stream media and not iinvited to a final debate in Iowa). Rudy Giuliani must be disappointed to have received less than 5% of the vote.

The land of the free

Amazing footage of police causing a disturbance at a town Hall Forum. University of Florida student is asking some possibly unwelcome questions of John Kerry. However police move in before he even asks his question to try to tell him to not take so long. He then gets more aggravated/distressed and continues to ask his questions. Two police then try to remove him from the auditorium, he protests (I don’t believe he actually did anything wrong up to this point) and it ends in him being tased as he resists the police (5 or 6 isn’t enough to restrain him – just how strong is this guy?!).

The questions he was trying to ask John Kerry was why did he concede defeat in the election so easily given reports of inaccurate vote counting (electronic voting, etc), black voter disenfranchisement and other irregularities in the election. John Kerry may actually have won.
He also wanted to ask should Bush be impeached, and if it was true that John Kerry and George Bush belonged to the same secret society (Scull and Bones) whist they were at Yale.