Domestic rare earths eyed to make LEDs -- Dec 19
Researchers, lawmakers and businesses are hoping to use rare earths in deep waters near the coast of Japan to produce LEDs, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.

Both the public and private sectors are aiming to jointly develop LED products in time for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Rare earths are highly concentrated in the deep seabed mud at a depth of over 5,000 meters off Minami-Torishima island, Japan’s easternmost territory in the Ogasawara Islands. Its reserves are predicted to cover 200 years or more of domestic demand.

“This is a chance for Japan to become a major resource-rich country,” a source close to the government said.

A research group including University of Tokyo Prof. Yasuhiro Kato successfully made white LEDs this year by extracting rare metal elements of yttrium and cerium from the seabed mud off Minami-Torishima island and using them as luminescent materials.

A group of Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers has submitted a proposal to the government urging it to utilize these white LEDs for the Tokyo Games.

The government is considering commercializing the newly developed LEDs and installing them at the venues of the Games, in a bid to demonstrate the nation’s natural ocean resources to visitors from around the world.

Should mass extraction of rare earth mud be realized, the domestically produced rare earths are expected to be used in a wide range of promising fields, such as electric cars, fuel cells and wind electricity.

However, the amount of rare earth mud brought up on a trial basis so far has been small, as the metals are located in the deep sea, making it a challenge to develop technology for large-scale extractions.

News source:
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