Boeing Launches Search for Critical REEs
Source: Popular Science, Clay Dillow (9/20/10)
"Remote sensing technology to map out possible U.S. deposits of REEs."
REEs are crucial for everything from high-tech computing hardware and cell phones to military tech.
New rare earth mines are planned in the U.S., Canada, Australia and Africa; but operations won't be up and running for a few years. During that time, Boeing's remote sensing technology could be able to confirm the existence of both "light" and "heavy" rare earth deposits in places like Idaho and Montana, where earlier sampling has shown concentrations of some valuable REEs.
Boeing's proprietary technology can be deployed from overhead via airplanes or satellites, scanning wide swaths of ground for electromagnetic signatures that suggest the presence of certain substances like neodymium. The highly magnetic element is used in everything from hard drives and hybrids to fighter jets—and securing reserves of the stuff is essential to future industrial advances in everything from computing to alternative energy.
We need REEs to move forward with a lot of technologies widely considered to be 'the future,' which explains Boeing's enthusiasm for joining the search; the company builds everything from airliners to satellites to fighter jets—not to mention many of the high-tech flight, targeting and navigation systems therein. In fact, though Boeing isn't saying much about the technology, there's a good chance the very sensing tech being used to search for rare earth elements is, itself, chock full of REEs.
That fact isn't lost on companies like Boeing. Re-establishing a domestic supply chain of rare earths won't take place overnight; but, with so much skin in the game, there's a good chance American industry will figure out how to get it done.