Japanese technology manufacturing giant Toshiba Corp. has announced the development of a motor that completely avoids rare earth minerals from China. Instead of using dysprosium, which China has an all-out monopoly of, the Toshiba’s motor magnet uses the rare earth metal known as samarium, which is found in abundance in Australia and the U.S. This can only be seen as good new for Japan, as it looks to reduce its dependency on China for its rare earths, not only because of their monopolistic pricing, but also because of escalating political tensions over a group of disputed islands.
Production of the motors is Toshiba’s top priority at this point, as the Japanese company hopes to have them ready for sale by March 2013. Not just for industrial machinery, the engines are also able to be used in cars and trains. Japan’s wake-up call about its rare earth mineral sources came in 2010, when tensions with China caused them to put an all-out stop to shipments to their Asian neighbor.
Japan and Vietnam have reached recent agreements to work together to escape China’s pinch. With a jointly financed project, Japan will provide the technology to help Vietnam process their stock of minerals, and in return Japan finds a new, cheaper source. Japan also had some good news earlier this summer, when the nation discovered its first deposit of rare earth minerals to be found within its exclusive economic zone. Found near an outlying island east of Tokyo, scientists believe there is enough to supply Japan for the next 227 years.[via Market Watch]