Mission: Irreplaceable?

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Science  26 Mar 2010:
Vol. 327, Issue 5973, pp. 1597
DOI: 10.1126/science.327.5973.1597

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Scientists are scrambling to develop substitutes for scarce elements critical to industry. But the myriad uses of the elements make the effort an uphill struggle. Researchers are trying to develop high-strength magnetic materials that yield at least as much magnetization with less neodymium. Solar cell makers have been working to create alternative versions of semiconductor alloys made from ultrathin films of abundant elements rather than indium. And researchers around the globe have also been toiling to replace indium used in transparent conductors in electronic displays with layers of graphene (single-atom-thick sheets of carbon) and carbon nanotubes.