2014 – A Breakthrough Year for Technology Metals
By Bodo Albrecht | Kitco
It is impossible to create a connected, mobile and sustainable society without technology metals (precious metals, specialty metals and rare earth elements) enabling it. Lithium stores energy in our rechargeable batteries; neodymium’s magnetic properties run electric motors of which there are many in our lives; silver helps collect sunlight and turn it into renewable energy.
Tech Metals Insider reported about these and many other applications throughout the year.
2014 has seen many of these technologies emerge from development to prototype, or even mass production.
- In May, a U.S. startup named Solar Roadways broke crowdfunding records with the idea of using solar panels as road surfaces. In parallel, SolaRoad of the Netherlands even opened the first stretch of public road to the public, using the same basic concept. Immovable solar panels, while not the most effective method of producing energy, will effectively add a secondary use to surfaces that are already exposed to sunlight.
- Throughout the year, institutes like the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory as well as development companies of all sizes, like Lattice Energy, Lockheed Martin or investor Bill Gates were exploring new fields of energy generation involving low energy nuclear reactors (LENR), promising an abundance of energy without the risks of conventional nuclear fission. The reactors used rely on gold or palladium to operate.
- As part of some of these processes, scientists of Lattice Energy and Toshiba Heavy Industries have discovered that a transmutation of metals takes place during operation, turning radioactive waste into rare earth elements and non-ferrous into precious metals. A Tech Metals Insider interview with Martin Burger of Blue Eagle Refinery, a group of modern day alchemists claiming to have created gold from broken glass in a modified microwave oven stirred much controversy over the summer.
- At the same time, scientists are of course working on alternatives that would not require precious metals at all to operate, making them less expensive and more marketable. In March, a company from Liechtenstein introduced the “QUANT e”, a sports car using a flow cell battery with sea water as the source of energy. While the world was debating the validity of this concept the U.S. Navy published results of trials with their own version of the same process, proving that it actually works.
- Most visibly, of course, 2014 was the year of the electric car. Tesla and Elon Musk, its charismatic leader, kept making headlines while other manufacturers like Volkswagen Group, Hyundai, Ford, Mitsubishi, BMW, Mercedes Benz and others joined Nissan in offering a portfolio of short range electric vehicles that are slowly gaining traction in their market segment. Supply and environmental impact of lithium are heavily influenced by the success of electric cars.
Video: 2013 Tesla Model S – Review – CAR and DRIVER
Contributing Editor Csaba Csere takes an in-depth and technical look into the 2013 Tesla Model S on the latest episode of Car and Driver: Tested.
Hosted by the editors of Car and Driver magazine, this show puts the audience into the action on new-car reviews, comparison tests, auto-show coverage, and more. Our experts drive and test the latest models, attend automotive events around the world, and check out the latest in-vehicle technology like massaging seats and night-vision systems. Viewers will also have the opportunity to write in and extend the conversation.