Scientists: Stuff to make cell phones may come from ocean floor
Soil containing rare-earth elements is loaded for shipment to a Chinese port last year.
July 4th, 2011
08:11 AM ET

Scientists: Stuff to make cell phones may come from ocean floor

Key raw materials necessary for modern devices such as cell phones, laptop computers and flat-screen TVs may be found in abundance on the ocean floor, Japanese scientists report in the journal Nature Geoscience.

Yasuhiro Kato and his colleagues at the University of Tokyo say they surveyed 78 sites on the Pacific Ocean floor and found high concentrations of rare-earth elements and the metal yttrium.

"We estimate that an area of just one square kilometer, surrounding one of the sampling sites, could provide one-fifth of the current annual world consumption of these elements," the scientists report.

And, the scientists say, the rare earths might not be difficult to extract.

"We show that rare-earth elements and yttrium are readily recovered from the mud by simple acid leaching, and suggest that deep-sea mud constitutes a highly promising huge resource for these elements," they wrote.

That would be good news for the market for rare earths, 97% of which now come from China, according to media reports. Recent Chinese moves to limit exports of rare-earth minerals has caused price spikes, Mother Nature News reports.

But writing on, journalist Nicola Jones reports that deep-ocean rare-earth mining might not be that simple. Jones quotes Gareth Hatch of Illinois-based Technology Metals Research:

"People talk about mining on the asteroids or the moon. This isn't that hard, but it's similar."

But based on what we make with these minerals (read the Mother Nature News report), it may be a task the world want to take on.

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Filed under: Earth • Japan • Mining • Technology
soundoff (25 Responses)
  1. Scottish Mama

    Hi Banasy, I thought something was up when I saw that, so I did not even post to you there. It trys to take on your demeanor though now.

    July 4, 2011 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
  2. banasy

    @Scottish Mama:

    I know, I know.
    He won't get it right.
    People here are too smart!

    July 4, 2011 at 5:34 pm | Report abuse |
  3. banasy

    Last time I posted, before 5:34, was at 1:30.
    He's getting better, but he still says things I would never say.
    He fools many.
    He, however, is the fool.

    July 4, 2011 at 5:37 pm | Report abuse |
  4. leeintulsa

    Before i wonder what took us so long to look on the ocean floor, i wonder where these ja{panese were looking.. Biproduct of a cluster of meltdowns, maybe..?

    July 4, 2011 at 7:33 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Afeez

    These are very interesting comment see i love it and i will like part of the researcher

    July 6, 2011 at 5:27 am | Report abuse |
  6. bill

    i just found a very cool mini cell phone jammer

    google :- yapper zapper

    July 8, 2011 at 10:05 am | Report abuse |
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