Have you ever thought about what materials are used to make the touch screen display on a smart phone or iPad? Do you wonder about the interface on a high-definition television, when it is necessary to refresh the screen sixty times per second? The reason that modern technology is capable of developing with such advanced steps is due to rare earth metals, a number of elements that you can find in your back yard but only around a few parts per million—hence the name. Companies interested in procuring such materials and wondering where to buy rare earth magnets that will be used in advanced features should understand the history of development and technology.
The United States produced most of the rare earth metals and magnets when they began to become popular in the 1950s and 1960s. At the time, rare earth metals were used in uncommon features, such as the heat strips of rockets or the display ports of radar scans. Perhaps no other innovation advanced the production of these materials as the television, as the necessity of breaking down incoming information into red, green, and blue colors (the three colors that all standard televisions project data with) required these types of magnets in the circuitry.
By the mid-1980s, the United States still produced the vast majority of such metals and magnets. Global demand, however, triggered other nations to begin their own complex mining operations. The Chinese government, with large tracts of undeveloped land and the labor force necessary to turn over billions of tons of earth to find the exact materials, began to conduct mining operations in the South Mongolia province in the 1990s. As the Chinese economy increased by leaps and bounds, buyers wondering where to buy rare earth magnets realized the viability of the Chinese market.
Today, the production of rare earth magnets fuels far more than simply televisions— although high definition and plasma screen TVs still require the rare earths to power their signals. The number one purchaser of these metals has become arms manufacturers as military technology corporations begin to utilize these magnets for specifications in equipment, like night-vision goggles and sniper scopes. Nearly three-quarters of all rare earth magnets sold on the market today will end up in a country’s military operations.
The extreme rarity of such metals can make their cost astronomical. Praseodymium, for example, costs nearly $100,000 per ton, compared to approximately $100 per ton of coal. United States exporters have attempted to compete with the Chinese markets that investors look for when planning where to buy rare earth magnets, but have largely failed due to the bottom-barrel price of production. In a few years, China will likely control 99% of the world’s production of select metals.
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