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Tech reliant on finite metal sources

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Posted December 4, 2013
Tech reliant on finite metal sources
Many of the metals needed to feed the surging global demand for high-tech products, from smart phones to solar panels, cannot be replaced, leaving some markets vulnerable if resources become scarce, according to a new Yale study.
Many of the metals needed to feed the surging global demand for high-tech products, from smart phones to solar panels, cannot be replaced, leaving some markets vulnerable if resources become scarce, according to a new Yale study.

 

In a comprehensive analysis, a team of researchers from the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES) evaluated how all 62 metals or metalloids on the periodic table of elements are used in consumer products, and the extent to which each of those metals could be replaced if reserves dwindle or supplies become unreliable.

According to their findings, not one metal has an “exemplary” substitute for all of its major uses. And for a dozen metals, potential substitutes for each of their primary uses are either inadequate or do not exist at all, according to the study, published Dec. 2 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

This lack of substitutes underscores an increased urgency for better management of these resources, particularly as population and wealth increase worldwide, the researchers say.

“We all like our gadgets; we all like our smart phones. But in 20 or 30 years, will we still have access to all the elements necessary to provide the particular functions that make a smart phone so great?” said Barbara Reck, a research scientist at F&ES and co-author of the study. “Based on our findings, it is unlikely that substitution can solve the supply restrictions for any of the metals on the periodic table.”

Read more at: Phys.org

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