Philips Develops Technology to Reduce Dependence on Rare Earths for LEDs
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Philips has kicked off working on a technology that will significantly reduce its dependence on rare earth minerals for its LED lighting products.

According to Frans van Houten, CEO of Royal Philips Electronics, “We have launched some innovation projects in order to become less dependent on rare earths.” Mr van Houten explained creating the LED lighting products will remain dependent on rare earths, it being a vital component to its efficiency. But such dependence can be lessened.

In his opinion, people cannot eliminate it of course. But in their labs thay have been able to find a way to significantly reduce the amount of rare earths which is necessary to make LED products.

Rare earths play an important role in high-tech industries, as they are widely used in manufacturing applications including aerospace, consumer electronics, automotive and telecommunications. They are abundant. But because of their geochemical properties, rare earths are dispersed and not often found in concentrated and economically exploitable forms.

China is considered as the world’s biggest supplier of rare earth minerals, holding more than 30 per cent of total world reserves. But China has imposed restrictions on its rare earths quotas since 2009, citing environmental concerns. This has put the rare earths chain into a panic, searching for other potential mining sites as well as inventing on research and development that could help pave the way for reduced reliance on the precious elements.

Aside from Philips, Automakers Honda and Toyota have earlier announced developing alternative technologies that would transform their hybrid and electric vehicles less dependent on rare earths.

In December 2011, German parts supplier Continental AG announced the invention of an electric motor operating without permanent magnets. Auto company Renault has reportedly started adopting in two of its electric vehicles the new motor invention. German wind turbine manufacturer Enercon has also begun utilizing an electrical system to generate the necessary magnetic field required by its generators.

“It will still take us a couple of quarters before that comes to bear. But it’s nice to see that when you put pressure on your organization they come up with creative ideas,” Mr van Houten said.

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