Beth, there are enough rare earth metals are available in China. They are possessing about 85% of the total availability. If China is willing to open up their market for international customers/companies, most of the problem may get resolved.
I suspect that transporting tons of raw materials back to earth will be a lot more costly than transporting them from under the ocean -- unforeseen difficulties are sure to play an economic role there. Still, I agree with you that our taste for high-tech will one day make asteroid mining a reality.
Interesting idea, William. This is the basis of the Alien movie series, that space travel will essentially be based on mining. That may be the case. Yet, given our gains in creating sophisticated robot technology, the mining missions may not involve humans.
The interesting thing to me about this work is that NovaTorque initially started out working with rare-Earth magnets and only tried the technology on ferrite magnets after rare-Earth pricing got out of hand. whatthat means is that in a few years, when new sources come online and the price of rare-Earth materials drops, NovaTorque can take what they've learned and begin making rare-Earth versions of their design, which could create uber-high-performance motorseven more compact and conventional rare-Earth versions.
I know many folks are poking fun at the idea of a push to asteroid mining, but as our high-tech gadgets require more and more high-tech materials that are becoming more and more scarce, looking off-world for new supplies sounds like a logical next step. It also beats the heck out of our entire technical workforce generating new mobile apps for their entire career...
To me, the message here is that innovation isn't just about coming up with the next new technology idea, but also being creative enough to see there can be novel approaches to old problems. The rare earth shortages are likely to continue for some time. This is a great example of deft engineering and being able to shift gears to another way of problem solving when something stands in your way.
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