Monday, February 7, 2011

Leibniz Institute - Increased Efficiency for CIGS Solar Cells


Posted: Feb 7th, 2011

Increased Efficiency for CIGS Solar Cells

(Nanowerk News) Scientists at INM — Leibniz Institute for New Materials developed a barrier layer that separates the metal carrier from the absorber film and thus increases the efficiency of metal-based CIGS solar cells. For the first time, the INM program division "Optical Materials" presents this development in the German Pavilion at the international trade fair "nano tech 2011" and also nationwide at the Hannover Messe 2011.

Corrosion and poor isolation between substrate and carrier material cause a lower efficiency for CIGS solar cells apart from other influences. Solar cells consist of copper (C), indium (I), gallium (G), and sulphur (S). Glass as carrier material and the low efficiency prevent the flexible application of these future solar cells in the automotive industry, for example.

The developed layer is glass-like. "It works as iron diffusion barrier and thus prevents corrosion and oxidation of the carrier", explains Peter William de Oliveira, head of the program division. "At the same time, the barrier works as insulating layer and reduces unintentional electrical currents from the absorber to the carrier", says Oliveira. Both functions increase the efficiency of metal-based CIGS solar cells by up to 13 percent.

The glass-like diffusion barrier is applied on the metal carrier by means of the sol-gel process. It is transparent and flexible and has a thickness of only a few micrometers. The INM scientists developed both the layer and up-scaled process. By means of dip coating and slot coating they produced foils in a DIN A3 size. The traditional roll-to-roll printing process allows the production of continuous layered foils up to a length of 50 meters and a width of about half a meter.

These and other applications are exhibited by INM at the international trade fair "nano tech 2011". Included are coatings with special properties, as for example transparent conductivity, antiadhesive, scratch-proof, antireflective or self-cleaning function, or layers for friction reduction or corrosion protection. Multifunctional coatings, which combine several of these properties, also belong to the INM research portfolio. The INM – Leibniz Institute for New Materials presents itself in the German Pavilion (Booth E-18-24) at the nano tech 2011 in Tokyo from 16th to 18th February 2011.

At the Hannover Messe, too, INM will present its skills and competencies at the Booth A-50 in Hall 2 – the Leading Trade Fair for Research and Technology and the International Leading Trade Fair for Research, Development and Technology Transfer.

The INM — Leibniz Institute for New Materials, situated in Saarbrücken (Germany), engages in fundamental and applied materials research – from molecules to pilot production. In interdisciplinary cooperation, the work of INM includes the fields of chemical nanotechnology, interface materials and materials in biology. Its focal research fields are chemical synthesis, physical analysis of surfaces, coatings and interfacial materials.


A recently published study of Lux Research Inc. confirms that the cost of goods sold for CIGS solar cells will rapidly decrease over the coming years. According to this study, an increased efficiency, among other things, will contribute to a gross margin of over 30 percent.


Diffusion barrier, conductive transparent coatings, multifunctional coatings:
Dr. Peter W. de Oliveira
INM — Leibniz Institute for New Materials
Phone +49 681 9300 148

Anti-adhesive coatings, scratch-proof coatings, coatings for friction reduction, multifunctional coatings:
Dr. Carsten Becker-Willinger
INM — Leibniz Institute for New Materials
Phone +49 681 9300 196

Source: INM - Leibniz Institute for New Materials

# # #

AsianDevBank - Migration Due to Climate Change Demands Attention

7 February 2011

Migration Due to Climate Change Demands Attention - ADB
MANILA, PHILIPPINES - Governments in Asia and the Pacific need to prepare for a large increase in climate-induced migration in the coming years, says a forthcoming report by the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

Typhoons, cyclones, floods and drought are forcing more and more people to migrate. In the past year alone, extreme weather in Malaysia, Pakistan, the People's Republic of China, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka has caused temporary or longer term dislocation of millions. This process is set to accelerate in coming decades as climate change leads to more extreme weather.

"No international cooperation mechanism has been set up to manage these migration flows, and protection and assistance schemes remain inadequate, poorly coordinated, and scattered," the report states. "National governments and the international community must urgently address this issue in a proactive manner."

ADB expects to issue the report, Climate Change and Migration in Asia and the Pacific, in early March as part of a broader ADB project aimed at increasing awareness of, and enhancing regional preparedness for, migration driven by changing weather patterns.

The report highlights specific risks confronting climate change "hotspots", including megacities in coastal areas of Asia. These hotspots of climate-induced migration face pressure from swelling populations as rural people seek new lives in cities. The problem is compounded by greater dislocation of people caused by flooding and tropical storms.

Climate-induced migration will affect poor and vulnerable people more than others," said Bart W. ?des, Director of ADB's Poverty Reduction, Gender, and Social Development Division. "In many places, those least capable of coping with severe weather and environmental degradation will be compelled to move with few assets to an uncertain future. Those who stay in their communities will struggle to maintain livelihoods in risk-prone settings at the mercy of nature's whims."

On the positive side, the report says that if properly managed, climate-induced migration could actually facilitate human adaptation, creating new opportunities for dislocated populations in less vulnerable environments.

The ADB project, Policy Options to Support Climate-induced Migration, is the first international initiative that aims to generate policy and financing recommendations to address climate-induced migration in Asia and the Pacific.

To obtain a copy of the draft report, contact or +63 2 632 6643.
For further information visit
Join a live online discussion with experts on 9 February 2011, 15:00 Manila time at

# # #

Toshiba's Nuclear Deal in Turkey


Toshiba upbeat on Turkey nuclear deal
By Jonathan Soble in Tokyo and Delphine Strauss in Ankara

Published: February 6 2011 19:16
Last updated: February 6 2011 19:16

Toshiba, the Japanese electronics and engineering group, says it is confident that it will seal a deal to build a nuclear power plant on Turkey’s Black Sea coast, after talks between the Turkish government and South Korean reactor builders broke down last year.

Norio Sasaki, Toshiba president, told the FT a deal now hinged mainly on the provision of long-term risk insurance by the Japanese government. Tokyo has been working to strengthen financial support for its private sector nuclear groups to help them compete with state-backed manufacturers in Korea and Russia.

The Turkish project could help Toshiba hit its goal of selling Y1,000bn ($12.2bn) of nuclear technology annually ahead of its initial target of 2015. “Now we’re talking about 2014, and it could even be a little earlier,” Mr Sasaki said. Turkish authorities “have said clearly they want an ABWR” – the Advanced Boiling Water Reactor type, built by Toshiba. “If [insurance] can be settled, then electric utilities will come on board and I think it will go well.”

Toshiba bought the US nuclear plant builder Westinghouse in 2006 and has been investing in its own pre-existing nuclear business, which has built most of its reactors in Japan. It is looking to increase exports, including to middle-income countries such as Turkey that have little or no experience in nuclear power.

“They are looking for someone to build the plants, run them, and sell the electricity to recoup the initial costs,” Mr Sasaki said. “In a 15 or 20-year project like that, there are various risks that a private company can’t take on its own, like the risk of an earthquake or political change.”
Turkey has struggled for years to launch a nuclear power industry that would reduce its reliance on oil and gas imports. In a 2008 tender, it received only one bid – from Russia’s Atomstroyexport – because most companies felt its conditions did not give them enough certainty.

Since then, Turkey has reached a deal with Moscow to build a first nuclear plant – part of a web of energy agreements on gas supply and pipelines. It entered exclusive talks with Japan to build the second plant, in the Black Sea province of Sinop, after negotiations with South Korea’s Kepco broke down in November.

Turkey’s energy ministry said technical negotiations with Japan continued, with a deadline of the end of March before talks would be reopened to other bidders. But a ministry spokesman said there was no question of Ankara offering state purchase guarantees that had been refused to South Korea – one of the chief reasons for the failure of negotiations.

# # #

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

EICC Case-Study: Leadership in Developing a Supply Chain Code of Conduct for the IT Industry

Leadership in Developing a Supply Chain Code of Conduct for the IT Industry

Organisation Name

Today, more than 80% of HP’s products are manufactured through alliances and partnerships and the company has taken significant steps to extend its social and environmental standards by introducing the HP Supply Chain Code of Conduct to its supply chain in 2002. It was the first code of conduct in the IT industry and provides an important foundation for HP’s ongoing efforts to ensure compliance with its Supply Chain Social and Environmental Responsibility (SER) Policy. With one of the IT industry’s largest and most complex supply chains also comes responsibility for setting standards in this industry. So in 2004, HP took the initiative to extend the Supply Chain Code of Conduct to the whole industry by playing a leading role in developing an industry-wide standard.

Since many electronics industry companies share suppliers, an industry-wide supplier code of conduct allows companies to work more effectively with suppliers to ensure compliance. In 2004, HP facilitated collaboration with some of the largest IT organisations, including Dell and IBM and major Electronics Manufacturing Service Providers, to develop a common Electronic Industry Code of Conduct (EICC).

The EICC promotes responsible business practices to improve social and environmental conditions across the global electronic supply chain and it aims to foster responsible management and operational practices in the areas of labour, human rights, environmental, health and safety (EHS) and ethics.

The EICC paves the way for a standards-based approach for monitoring suppliers' performance across several areas of corporate responsibility. Fundamental to adopting the code is the understanding that a business, in all of its activities, must operate in full compliance with the laws, rules and regulations of the countries in which it operates. The code encourages participants to go beyond legal compliance, drawing upon internationally recognised standards in order to advance social and environmental responsibility.

The Electronic Industry Code of Conduct may be voluntarily adopted by a business in the electronics sector and subsequently applied by that business to its own suppliers.

Over the last year, HP has had extensive dialogue with internal and external stakeholders regarding EICC provisions. In coordination with the original EICC founders, the company incorporated several changes into the EICC. The current (October 2005) version added open communication and direct engagement between workers and management.

HP participates in the EICC Implementation Group as the Vice Chair and is a member of the EICC steering committee.

?Building consensus in developing an industry code of conduct took time and perseverance in the short run but has long-term benefits.


?It was clear that there were advantages to addressing supply chain issues on an industry-wide basis, to develop common assessment, auditing methods and a central database for the technology sector.

?Standardizing SER tools and processes throughout the industry reduces confusion, increases efficiency, avoids duplication of supplier surveys and audit fatigue and increases focus on the core issues.

Period Of Implementation

Place Of Implementation

More Information

Year Of Submission

Mainstreaming CSR
Business Partnerships

= = =

Reference Link:

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A Japanese Woman Leading in 3-D TV, Breaking Japan’s Glass Ceiling


Leading in 3-D TV, Breaking Japan’s Glass Ceiling

Published: January 17, 2011

TOKYO — It is the Achilles’ heel of 3-D television: the clunky glasses that viewers must wear to see images pop out in 3-D.
But Rieko Fukushima, a researcher at Toshiba, developed a way to do away with the glasses — and at the same time is helping to crack Japan’s glass ceiling for women.

“I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t tough as a woman,” said Mrs. Fukushima, 39, who led Toshiba’s effort to develop the world’s first “naked eye” 3-D TV. The project began nine years ago, when she had just returned from maternity leave.

“Sometimes, I’d see it in my colleagues’ expressions,” she said “ ‘What? A woman? This age? In charge?’ ”

It is too early to know whether Toshiba can create a big consumer market for its new 3-D TVs, which it introduced in Japan in October and demonstrated this month at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

But Mrs. Fukushima’s breakthrough is a rare example of a company that has successfully tapped what some economists call Japan’s most underused resource: women.

According to a 2009 government survey, women made up 8 percent of managerial jobs in Japan; in the United States, women hold 43 percent of supervisory positions, according to Catalyst, a nonprofit in New York.

Only 65 percent of college-educated Japanese women are employed, many of them in low-paid temp jobs, compared with about 80 percent in the United States — “a significant lost economic opportunity for the nation,” Goldman Sachs said in a report in October. Over two-thirds of Japanese women leave the work force after their first child compared with just one-third of American women, the report said, often because of corporate and societal norms, as well as insufficient child care.

If Japan’s 60 percent female employment rate in 2009 could match the 80 percent rate among men, the country would have 8.2 million more workers to replenish its rapidly aging population and raise its gross domestic product by as much as 15 percent, said the report, by Kathy Matsui, a managing director at Goldman Sachs Japan.

Mrs. Fukushima’s success has therefore been welcomed as an inspirational tale of what can happen when things fall into place: a driven woman, a supportive family, and a company trying to diversify its work force.

“As a researcher, her ideas are cutting edge,” said Yuzo Hirayama, the head researcher at Toshiba’s TV research unit. “Her communication and networking skills also never cease to astound me.”

It was in 2002 that Mrs. Fukushima, after maternity leave for her first child, helped set up a new research and development team to explore the possibilities of 3-D displays. At the time, there was skepticism at Toshiba over whether 3-D technology could be commercialized.

Still, Mrs. Fukushima saw the potential in an early prototype. From the start, she was convinced that the viewing glasses that accompanied most 3-D technology would have to go.

In conventional 3-D TV technology that uses glasses, images for each eye are rapidly displayed one after the other. Filters in dedicated glasses flash on and off in sync with the TV, so that the right eye sees one image, then the left eye sees the next image, creating the illusion of 3-D.

But Mrs. Fukushima proposed a new approach: developing an algorithm that draws on a Toshiba imaging processor called the Cell to display nine images for each frame. A sheet on the screen angles each image so that the right eye sees only images meant for the right eye, while the left eye sees only images meant for the left eye.

The biggest challenge was making a TV that displays 3-D images even when viewed from wider angles. Toshiba has not entirely solved that problem: its TVs work best when viewed from within a 40-degree zone.

Designing a mass-production setup to keep costs down also posed difficulties, something Mrs. Fukushima tackled by building a network of experts from around the company. But pressure mounted as the project progressed.

“When I was just a researcher, a setback would only reflect badly on myself. But now that I was leading a team, I had to make sure nobody lost faith,” she said.

“I needed to think things through harder than anyone else,” she said. “I often felt overcome with worry, but I tried not to show that at meetings.”

A big break for the project came at a companywide technology fair in May, when an advanced prototype caught the eye of Norio Sasaki, Toshiba’s president. After that came an effort involving hundreds of engineers that pushed production schedules forward as much as two years. “2010 was supposed to be the year of the 3-D glasses,” she said. “We beat our rivals by going glasses-less.”

In Japan, a 20-inch model sells for 240,000 yen, or $2,880. Developing models in bigger sizes would be crucial in marketing the TVs globally, analysts say.

Mrs. Fukushima credits Toshiba with creating a hospitable environment for women. When she was on maternity leave, her supervisor e-mailed her with updates on the latest research and to assure her she “had a place to come back to,” she said.

Toshiba introduced measures in 2004 to help women balance work responsibilities with those at home, including more flexible working hours and a career track with a reduced workload. Now, the majority of women who take maternity leave return to their jobs, officials say.

Women have made more inroads into research positions than in other company divisions: though women number only 12 percent of Toshiba’s 113,500 workers, they make up 20 percent of its main research and development staff. Toshiba still has a way to go in promoting them to advanced positions, however: just 360 of the company’s 21,011 managers are women.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Fukushima’s husband, whom she met in college, has been an important supporter. He encouraged Mrs. Fukushima, a chemistry major, to pursue a master’s degree. Now they share household chores, with her husband, a university lecturer, in charge of making breakfast and sending their daughter to school, while Mrs. Fukushima handles dinner and bedtime. On a typical workday, Mrs. Fukushima works from about 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

It has not always gone smoothly for her. When she began looking for work in 1994, after the collapse of Japan’s economic bubble, many companies told her they were not hiring women, she recalled. Others said they had no experience in hiring women with master’s degrees.

But a Toshiba recruiter encouraged her to call, and after a short interview, she was hired along with another woman from the same university. “There were companies that weren’t even giving women interviews, but Toshiba hired two,” Mrs. Fukushima said. “I was elated.”

Now, she is held up as an example of a woman climbing Japan’s corporate ladder. Nikkei Woman, a monthly magazine for businesswomen, named Mrs. Fukushima its Woman of the Year last month.

Amid her newfound fame, Mrs. Fukushima says she considers her 9-year-old daughter her biggest fan. “She gets so excited to see me on TV,” Mrs. Fukushima said. The girl talks of being a researcher herself one day.

“It makes me happy,” Mrs. Fukushima said. “But these days I am careful to remind her that Daddy has an important job, too.”

= = =

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Chinese Yuan, Rare Earths And The Selection Of Critical Mining Projects — Technology Metals Research

The Chinese Yuan, Rare Earths And The Selection Of Critical Mining Projects — Technology Metals Research

If you’re reasonably well informed about global trade issues, then you know that the USA and China disagree politically on the relative value, of the Chinese renminbi in US dollars, and that the renminbi’s exchange rate with the US dollar is set by the Chinese government. This is because the world market has chosen not to make the renminbi freely convertible (exchangeable for other currencies at a rate set by a free market, not by the issuing country). This is itself because the Chinese government exclusively sets the exchange rate, and its power to do so is based on the immense size of its trading economy surplus (of export value over import cost), and on the fact that China has now built up the world’s largest (ever in history) reserves of ‘hard’ currency (convertible to US dollars), in the form of US dollars themselves.

These two factors allow the Chinese to keep their currency pegged artificially low, relative to the value that the free market would give it in terms of US dollars. The US government, for all of its bravado and the ranting of internationally powerless members of the US Senate, can do nothing to force the Chinese to strengthen the yuan (the basic unit of renminbi).

China is thus enjoying a powerful advantage in that it takes fewer dollars to buy a yuan, than it should if the global free market operated in China. This is because China has accumulated so much ability, not just potential, to affect the world trading (export/import) markets.

With that introduction I am going to issue a caution, perhaps even a warning, to all of those calling for sustained increased prices for the rare earths. Be careful what you wish for.

China speeds up yuan’s globalization” is a headline that appeared in the International Business Times last week. It joins a flood of other stories on this topic, now filling the news prior to a meeting between the US and Chinese presidents in this coming week. My first thought was to wonder how this Chinese move will affect the rare-metals market.

The US dollar supplanted the British pound sterling between World War I (a war which essentially made the UK insolvent) and the end of World War II (which made the UK bankrupt). Note well, that the British Empire gave up a century and a half of economic gains in a 31-year (1914-45) effort to decide the mastery of Europe, which the combatants started out believing would decide the fate of most of the world. Southeast Asia was a backwater in both wars as far as the issuer of the world’s de facto reserve currency (the UK) was concerned, in 1914 and in 1939. In 1947, Imperial Britain had been replaced by a fundamentally still-isolationist United States, as the absolute center of the financial world. In 1947, the USA held for its own account or for safekeeping, half of all the gold in the world. No greater accumulation of gold had ever before been seen, nor has it been since, at least so far.

The Chinese Empire collapsed in 1912, in a series of events more noticed in Hollywood than Washington, DC. Yet no Communist revolution immediately followed the fall of the last dynasty in China, as it did in Imperial Russia six years later. China literally seethed in revolutions and dictatorships until Japan, emulating European empires in their death throes, decided to create a protectionist trade zone with a complete self-sufficiency in the supply chains for metals, minerals and energy. It called its plan the ‘Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.’ The first move by Japan was to try to conquer China, piece by piece, to get its resources and acquire control of its population for use as labor.

The Japanese were defeated in China by the USA, which belatedly came to southeast Asia’s rescue when the Japanese miscalculated the consequences of going to war, with a far-off enemy with a larger manufacturing economy. The Chinese in all their suffering, noticed the Japanese error and resolved to never let it happen to them again. Note that the Communist revolution and ascendancy in China started during the attempted Japanese conquest, which went on for 14 years! The Communists were successful in 1949 and China became The Peoples’ Republic of China, as it is called today.

America, sitting on a massive hoard of gold in 1949 and enjoying the greatest industrial manufacturing-based consumer boom in history,ignored the devastated economy of China as too big a problem to solve in a reasonable time. It decided instead to revive Europe (and as it turned out, Japan) as a hoped-for market for American goods and services, to be paid for with cheap labor at first. Even though no- one in the McCarthy era period of anti-Communist knee-jerk political correctness would admit it, there was a feeling that the Soviet Union could and would now get bogged down for generations in China, which was seen as a basket case.

Unfortunately, many Americans of the political and economic class are basing their decisions with regard to China, as if the USA could catch up with Chinese politics and economics by simply adjusting America’s 1960s view of China. It is too late for that.

The Chinese renminbi has now begun a journey that I think ultimately will result in the yuan and the dollar both being reserve currencies and then in the yuan surpassing the dollar as the stronger reserve currency. This will occur in lock-step with the US reducing its ability to create wealth, through the production of natural resources and their conversion into finished goods in surpluses that can be exported, while the US maintains its standard of living.

This will probably not happen overnight; it could take a generation, because we are still in the period where Chinese investors are accumulating the US dollar as the reserve currency because they still fear using their own currency as a safe harbor, and because they have so much of the reserve currency that they are able to affect the political choices of the issuer of that currency.

The Chinese are well aware of the fact, conveniently forgotten by American politicians, that while the UK was the issuer and guarantor of the world’s reserve currency, it was also on the gold standard, and it was the world’s policeman, whether it liked it or not. Britain was the world’s policeman in order to protect its imperial trade routes. America did not take over this role after World War II. Instead, it immediately went to Cold War to prevent the ‘spread’ of communism. The greatest defeat in that Cold War was considered to be ‘the loss of China,’ although no-one suggested war either to prevent or redeem China’s ‘fall’, even when China as the newly minted PRC went to war with the US, by proxy, in Korea, which the US then, as now, refers to as a “police action.” In all fairness to the politicians of 1949 and the USA, we had just concluded a massive effort that destroyed China’s attempted conqueror, Japan, and the American people did not perceive the ‘loss’ of China as a near-term problem.

China is today still not a credible, conventional military threat to the USA. As in the Middle East, technology and training beat ill-equipped, ill-trained masses, every time. This means that militarily, without the direct and credible threat of mutual atomic annihilation, China cannot prevent the USA from acting anywhere in the world even as close to its own shores as Japan or Taiwan. China’s recent probing of Japanese resolve on sea floor rights to energy and minerals, has been cast as a rare-earth issue by myopic viewers of the international scene, and self-interested parties looking for drivers for investment in non-Chinese rare earth production. In fact, the confrontation was merely a skirmish in a larger war for natural resources, begun nearly a century ago by Japan, in emulation of Britain.

In the world of international trade of utilitarian commodities, metals, minerals, and energy sources, China is the demand driver overwhelmingly. Essentially all investment in new productive capacity for utilitarian commodities, is to add supply for serving Chinese demand. If this is a slight exaggeration, at least it is true that no-one would make anywhere near this level of investment, if it were not for the collateral of massive Chinese demand growth.

To put it mildly, China is in the driver’s seat (excuse the pun).

At the moment. China is the dominant player in the rare-earth space, which is where the operation of Western free-market capitalism, always seeking the lowest price, placed China. This cannot and will not change for two to three years, the least time it will take, if everything goes according to plan, for new or restarted production and refining in significant quantities of rare earths produced outside of China, refined outside of China, and incorporated in end-use products outside of China to come to the world market.

So, what is this to do with the value of the US dollar and the Chinese yuan?

If China continues to hold the price of the yuan where it is against the US dollar, then the only pressure to produce rare earths outside of China will be for strategic advantage to ensure security of supply, to maintain both civilian industry and military uses free of Chinese influence and control.
China today controls the rare-earth supply chain, because its price structure has moved that entire supply chain to China up to the point where high-purity metals and alloys are delivered to end users. Even there, at the point of end-use manufacturing, China is today the low-cost producer and so today, China is not only the monopoly producer of the rare earths, it is the dominant end-user of rare earths in the manufacturing of finished goods.

At least half or more of these rare-earth-containing finished goods are made in China for the export market. Therefore, it is in China’s economic interest to prevent the export of rare earths as raw materials. This has been the exact direction of Chinese export controls on rare earths since the beginning of this century.

If you believe, as the Chinese do, that the only remaining threat to their total control of the rare-earth supply chain is the Japanese rare-earth end-use products industry (such batteries, permanent magnets and lasers), then you will put pressure on Japan to move the last of the world’s non-Chinese, high-value-added sectors of rare-earth-based product manufacturing to China, or give the Japanese a reason to allow Chinese manufacturing competitors to compete in Japan (which today Japan does not do, in the case of magnets). Either of these moves would create jobs in China. which is always the goal of the Chinese economy, as it is the goal of the Japanese economy, and as it should be the goal of the US economy.

The point of all of this, is that it is China who will benefit most from price increases, for the rare earths as fabricated forms for industrial manufacturing end-use.

Chinese analysts predict that by 2015, China will produce just two-thirds of the world’s supply of new rare earths. Chinese analysts assume that Lynas, Molycorp, and perhaps, Toyota in Vietnam, will produce the remaining third.

The Chinese analyst community is silent about the overall percentage of the total value-add rare-earth supply chain that this one-third will represent.

I think that China will be completely self-sufficient in domestic rare-earth production for its supply chain in 2015 as it is today. I also think that higher prices for rare earths are inevitable as China cleans up the environment in general and in mining in particular. The one, the greening of rare earth mining, adds costs to rare-earth mining; the other, the greening of the Chinese economy, adds demand. Both are upward price drivers.

The real question is how much of the higher costs of rare earths can be absorbed by the Chinese supply chain, before increases in cost for value-add rise, to where a competitive supply chain can be economic in a foreign (to China) country other than Japan. Note that as rare-earth prices go up in China, they will also go up in Japan and that Japanese labor and overhead is vastly greater than that of China today. The gap will close, if it closes, only slowly even at Chinese rates of growth of costs. Those who think they will operate in the USA to add value to rare earths mined and refined in the USA, need to demonstrate that their supply chain total costs are below those of foreign competitors. Historically it is the very fact that this has not been so, which has driven the rare-earth supply chain to Japan and China in the first place.

China, in my opinion, has always wanted higher prices for rare earths, but has been prevented from getting them by fierce internal competition for supply from both legal and illegal sources. The elimination of unethical, dirty, and illegal competition is the target of the current consolidation and environmental remediation (of the rare earth mining sector) initiatives within the PRC.
Now, what about the value of the Yuan?

Chinese goods bought in China must be purchased in renminbi; that is the law. In order to buy or trade goods within China a foreign company must place a hard-currency deposit in a Chinese bank, as collateral for being allowed to purchase renminbi for use only in commercial transactions, at an exchange rate set by the Chinese Ministry of Finance.

So, if the Chinese re-value the renminbi up to reflect its strength as the US demands, then the number of dollars to buy the same number of renminbi will increase. Thus, without doing anything at all, the costs of Chinese goods to foreigners in the dollar/euro/yen economic zones (all of them are hard currencies exchangeable at market rates for one another), including rare rare earths, will rise, but the renminbi price will not rise just on that account.

If China, after imposing an increase in the value of the renminbi, then sees its internal rare-earth prices go up in renminbi, there will be a larger proportionate increase in the number of dollars it will then take to purchase the renminbi, to purchase the rare earths.

I believe that the cost of the rare-earth fabricated forms necessary to make end-use products in mass production, is only a small part of the final cost of the finished goods.

Therefore I believe that an increase in the prices of the rare earths in renminbi, without a contemporaneous increase in labor rates in China for workers who produce the finished goods, does not change China’s competitive advantage in the value chain for rare-earth-based products.
Unfortunately, such an increase will serve in the above case to make non-Chinese value chains even more uncompetitive, since other than in Japan, they will need to invest large amounts of capital to start or restart operations to refine, fabricate, and utilize rare earths in consumer products, and will at the same time have to train largely inexperienced engineers and workers to do jobs for which there is little or no domestic prior experience base to draw upon for instructors. Even if these barriers of capital and skilled labor are overcome, they will now have to play catch-up in technology and compete economically with long-established Chinese and Japanese industry, which has not been standing still waiting for them.

The best market plan for non-Chinese miners who plan to produce rare earths, is to acquire or JV with existing companies that already have the skill sets needed. These will be Chinese, Japanese, French, British, Indian, or Estonian companies. Some have already done this. Any mining venture that intends to go head-to-head with a Chinese mining venture, solely on the ability to produce ore concentrates or even separated and purified chemical compounds must, I think, fail.

There is also one more thing that all rare-earth end users must do. They must secure their supply of the total of the critical rare earths for their products or processes. This means to me, that they must secure their supplies of one or more of lanthanum, neodymium, samarium, europium, dysprosium, and terbium.

Since nature does not provide any one rare-earth deposit with commercial quantities of all of the rare earths, or all of the above critical rare earths, it is necessary always to choose one from ‘Column A’, a producer of the light rare earths, and one from’ Column B’, a producer of heavy rare earths. This is even true for the contemporary Chinese rare-earth-containing finished-goods industry.

The most critical of the current rare earths are dysprosium and terbium, two of the heavy rare earths, today produced only in China and historically produced only in the former Soviet Union and in China.

There are only a small number of rare-earth projects outside of China capable of producing commercial quantities of dysprosium and terbium. Some or all of these MUST be brought into production as soon as possible, because it is said by the Chinese themselves, that their heavy-rare-earth production has less than 25 years remaining at present levels, and much less if demand increases. China, like the rest of the rare-earth-using countries, is therefore also seeking out heavy-rare-earth production.

I believe that for heavy rare earths, and only heavy rare earths, strategic need will overcome simple economics, or at least the capitalization of strategic need will create the necessary economics to bring heavy-rare-earth-themed mines into production.

There will be no non-Chinese, rare-earth-based, mass-produced devices utilizing rare-earth permanent magnets, until a reliable steady supply of dysprosium can be secured. The lighting industry outside of China will founder ,without a secure supply of the heavy rare earth terbium.
Therefore, if there is to be a non-Chinese, rare-earth-utilizing manufacturing industry, one or more of the heavy-rare-earth deposits that are technically feasible, must be brought into production even if it is not economically sensible on a freestanding basis as a business.

You need to look at the TMR Advanced Rare-Earth Projects Index, produced and maintained by my colleague Gareth, as a metric to decide which rare-earth mines are going to be critical to Chinese and non-Chinese rare-earth supply chains. I am going to make my own selections in a separate article, so that I can explain to you why I chose some over others.
= = =

Israeli water technology makes water safe for drinking from almost any source.

Water, water everywhere and every drop to drink | environment


"... Following a major earthquake in Taiwan in 2009, humanitarian aid workers from Israel brought along locally made WaterSheer products to ensure a steady stream of potable water for the survivors and to transport drinking water quickly to where it was needed most.

"You need high quality water in every circumstance, and we are able to provide it even in cases of disaster," says Yossie Sandak, CEO and co-founder of the three-year-old company based in Airport City, near Tel Aviv. "In Taiwan, within 48 hours our products were already in the field and purifying 16,000 liters (4,227 gallons) per day ... "


Read the rest on your own by clicking on hyperlink above.