Rare Earths Near Japan Used as Luminescent Materials for LEDs

A group of Japan's researchers, legislators, and businessmen hope to use rare earth metals in the deep sea near coastal area of Japan to make LED products. They aim to use them for the Olympics and Paralympic Games in Japan in 2020, reported the Yomiuri Shimbun.  
 

A high density of rare earth metals was found in the sea of Minami Torishima, easternmost of Ogasawara Island in Japan. The rare earth on the seabed, 5000 meters deep off the coast of Japan, is estimated to be sufficient for 200 years of consumption in Japan.

Professor Yasuhiro Kato of University of Tokyo and his research team successfully extracted  Yttrium and Cerium from the rare earth on the seabed off the coast of Minami Torishima. Yttrium and Cerium can be used as luminescent materials for LEDs.

Several lawmakers of the Liberal Democratic Party proposed to the government that these LED products can be used in the Olympic Games in Japan. The Japanese government is also considering to commercialize such types of LED products and use them in Olympic venues, in order to show visitors rich oceanic resources Japan has.

If it is plausible to mass extract and purify the rare earth on the seabed, the materials can be widely used not only just for LED light-emitting materials but electric vehicles, power cells, and wind-generated electricity. Currently, it is very challenging to extract rare earth from the deep ocean, so the scale of output is still very limited.

One extraction technology is to install compressed air tube into the seabed, and pull up the metals with the buoyant force of the air. Around 30 companies and institutions, including Toyota Motors Co., Mitsui Engineering & Shipbuilding Co., and University of Tokyo, form a consortium applying for research funds to continue the development of rare earth metal extraction technologies.

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