Sunday, January 09, 2011

Report due on critical energy minerals

There's been tremendous attention to rare earth elements in the couple years. They are necessary for a wide variety of electronic uses and production is dominated by China, which is becoming more reticent to supply other countries.

But a new report on "Energy Critical Minerals" is due out any day, that among a range of topics on critical minerals for energy development, looks beyond REEs and examines the reserves and costs of cadmium-tellurium (CdTe) compound for use in photovoltaic solar cells. CdTe is the technology used by Tempe-based First Solar Corporation. The world reserves and production of Te was a focus topic in the technical workshop last year (pp18-22) that kicked off the study for the upcoming report.

There are those who argue there are limits of Te production and reserves that will restrict the amount of photovoltaic capacity. Others say there is a lot of Te potential that is not being tapped (eg, as a byproduct of Cu production) or that rising prices will open up new production. The upcoming report is being produced by the American Physical Society and the Materials Research Society and could have a big impact.

The report also examines the shortage of Helium, used in industrial processes. To help meet this national need, a large project is underway in the St. Johns area in eastern Arizona to prove up enough reserves to support full scale development.


  1. Tim Peshek9:38 AM

    When will we know when the final report is published? I worked on a project developing solar cells from earth-abundant elements that have well developed supply chains, such as zinc and phosphorus. I would find this report very interesting, to be sure.

  2. Tim, I just confirmed the report is due out by the end of January. I expect it will be prominently posted on the web sites for APS and MRS. I expect to do a blog post on it when it comes out as well.