3 August 2022
The High Impact of Rare Earths on the AEC Industry
Imagine if iron and steel suddenly became unavailable, or so expensive that they may as well be unavailable. What would the AEC industry do without it? What if both fluorescent and LED lights were suddenly removed from the market? Or there was a sudden shortage of polished glass? A towering skyscraper clad in particle board? A four-lane bridge constructed of two-by-fours? We think not. But unless we secure the rare-earth supply chain, things like mobile phones, lightbulbs, computers, and hundreds of other items that we take for granted teeter on the brink of unavailability.
Turkey (the country, not the fowl) recently made a bold statement regarding their discovery of a rare-earths deposit that they claimed could rival China’s. Further investigation uncovered some interesting data regarding rare earths, with potential impact on the AEC industry. As a CAD/BIM professional, this could influence future projects, so let’s dive in.
What Are Rare Earths?
Imagine if iron and steel suddenly became unavailable, or so expensive that they may as well be unavailable.
While the amount of REE used in a product might literally be a fractional percentage, and, therefore, insignificant in terms of weight, value, or volume, the REE is vital to the functioning of the product. For example, without REE-infused magnets, the spindle motors and voice coils of desktops and laptops would not be possible. Can you imagine your life without your computer or cell phone? No, neither can we.
The Role of Rare Earths
While REEs are fractional components in high-tech devices such as smartphones, digital cameras, computer hard disks, fluorescent and LED lights, flat-screen TVs, computer monitors, and electronic displays, some REEs are used in large quantities in clean energy and defense technologies.
A towering skyscraper clad in particle board? A four-lane bridge constructed of two-by-fours? We think not.
Not All Earth Is Rare Earth
Rocky Supply Chain
Items we take for granted in our daily existence teeter on the brink of unavailability.
Paydirt on Our Home Turf?
By the People, For the People
Are there rare earths in your garden soil? Sure, some, probably. Enough to support your personal requirements? Cue maniacal laughter. Short answer: No.