Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login

Regarding "A sudden disappearance of rare earth metals needed to make electronics", you (mostly) don't need to worry about that either. Fluorescent tubes and white LEDs use rare earth elements to convert blue/UV light to broad spectrum visible light -- these are how non-OLED displays generate back light. High strength permanent magnets contain the rare earth elements samarium or neodymium (with optional lesser quantities of dysprosium, praseodymium, gadolinium). Those are the only rare earth element applications worth mentioning as far as computer system components go. Strong rare earth magnets are still used in spinning-platter hard drives, but not in SSDs.

You could buy a new EPYC server with solid state drives, grind it up and homogenize the whole thing in acid, and the resulting solution would have a smaller percentage of rare earth elements in it than the same mass of ordinary crustal rocks treated the same way.

Computers don't need rare earth elements. Nor do solar panels, nor do most wind turbines.

See for example the "Consumption" section in the USGS 2015 Minerals Yearbook Rare Earths report:


In descending order of global consumption volume, rare earth elements are consumed by the manufacture of catalysts, magnets, glass polishing media, and metal alloys. Everything else is just miscellaneous.

Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact