Feeds

Gadget world's metals irreplaceable, say boffins

We have an elementary problem

High performance access to file storage

Nearly one-fifth of the metal elements present in modern tech products have no replacement candidates if supplies are exhausted, according to a study by Yale University.

In fact, the survey of 62 metals important to modern technology finds that not one of those metals has an “exemplary” alternative to take its place if reserves were to run low.

The study, published in PNAS (abstract here, full version here), is an attempt to assess the “criticality” of various metals used in gadgets – whether as the basis of micro-electronics, batteries, or merely as a circuit trace like copper.

Some of the hardest-to-replace metals include magnesium, manganese, yttrium, rhodium, rhenium, thallium, lead, europium and dysprosium. Without them, we might have trouble producing phosphors for flat panel displays (yttrium and europium), jet engines and electrical contacts (rhenium), optical devices (thallium), permanent magnets (dysprosium) and other high-tech components.

“For some widely used metals — including copper, chromium, manganese, and lead — no good substitutes exist for their major uses,” Yale University says in a statement. Thankfully, at least some of these are highly abundant.

The university says the research “aims to produce a quantitative assessment of how metals are used on a global scale, the extent to which they are recycled, and, ultimately, how future demand will affect material resources.”

Irreplaceable elements - periodic table

Some metals key to technology production have no good substitutes. Source: Yale University

Unsurprisingly, the study's authors say the tech sector needs to get much, much better at recycling the metals it uses, including designing products to encourage and enable recycling. ®

Top three mobile application threats

More from The Register

next story
Dropbox defends fantastically badly timed Condoleezza Rice appointment
'Nothing is going to change with Dr. Rice's appointment,' file sharer promises
Audio fans, prepare yourself for the Second Coming ... of Blu-ray
High Fidelity Pure Audio – is this what your ears have been waiting for?
Did a date calculation bug just cost hard-up Co-op Bank £110m?
And just when Brit banking org needs £400m to stay afloat
MtGox chief Karpelès refuses to come to US for g-men's grilling
Bitcoin baron says he needs another lawyer for FinCEN chat
Zucker punched: Google gobbles Facebook-wooed Titan Aerospace
Up, up and away in my beautiful balloon flying broadband-bot
Apple DOMINATES the Valley, rakes in more profit than Google, HP, Intel, Cisco COMBINED
Cook & Co. also pay more taxes than those four worthies PLUS eBay and Oracle
It may be ILLEGAL to run Heartbleed health checks – IT lawyer
Do the right thing, earn up to 10 years in clink
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.