News of the WeekHigh Technology

Haunted by 'Specter of Unavailability,' Experts Huddle Over Critical Materials

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Science  17 Dec 2010:
Vol. 330, Issue 6011, pp. 1598
DOI: 10.1126/science.330.6011.1598

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When shipments of rare earth metals from China to Japan temporarily stopped in the wake of a territorial spat this autumn, high-tech companies around the world got an uncomfortable reminder that China owns a stranglehold on supplies of the coveted commodities. The episode might have attracted more attention than China hoped for. The U.S. Department of Energy and counterparts in Japan and Europe have held workshops in recent weeks bringing materials scientists and policymakers together to brainstorm on how to ensure supplies of rare earths and other strategic minerals and to stimulate research on alternatives.