Japan is interested in cooperation with Kazakhstan in rare earth projects, KazTag Agency reports, citing Japan’s Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Yukio Edano as saying following his talks with Kazakhstan’s Foreign Minister Erzhan Kazykhanov May 2.
“It is quite natural that Kazakhstan as a nation producing a range of commodities has always been of great interest to Japan. This time the two sides have signed some documents on development of rare earth elements (…) I believe Japan could be very helpful to ensure effective production as we do possess high technology”, the Japanese Minister said.
“There are many nations thinking of constructing nuclear power plants. Japan has accumulated abundant technology to support such projects. We will keep on cooperating with nations [willing to construct nuclear power plants] and we will be strengthening this vectors [of cooperation”, Yukio Edano said in a separate statement.
As defined by IUPAC, rare earth elements or rare earth metals are a set of seventeen chemical elements in the periodic table. Because of their geochemical properties, rare earth elements are typically dispersed and not often found in concentrated and economically exploitable forms.
According to mnn.com, much of rare earths' appeal lies in their ability to perform obscure, highly specific tasks. Europium provides red phosphor for TVs and computer monitors, for example, and it has no known substitute. Cerium similarly rules the glass-polishing industry, with "virtually all polished glass products" dependent on it, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
Permanent magnets are another big role for rare earths. Their light weight and high magnetic strength have made it possible to miniaturize a wide range of electronic parts, including many used in home appliances, audio/video equipment, computers, cars and military gear. Innovations like small, multi-gigabyte jump drives and DVD drives likely wouldn't exist without rare earth magnets, which are often made from a neodymium alloy but may also contain praseodymium, samarium, gadolinium or dysprosium.
While producing rare earths can cause environmental problems, they have an eco-friendly side, too. They're vital to catalytic converters, hybrid cars and wind turbines, for example, as well as energy-efficient fluorescent lamps and magnetic-refrigeration systems. Their low toxicity is an advantage, too, with lanthanum-nickel-hydride batteries slowly replacing older kinds that use cadmium or lead.