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Alternatives Sought for Rare-Earth Materials

Photonics.com
Oct 2011
BERLIN, Oct. 14, 2011 — In response to the shortage of rare-earth metals used for polishing in the optics industry, high-tech industry association Spectaris has developed a “Rare Earth” industrial consortium project to seek out possible alternatives.

Export restrictions by key suppliers in China, as well as an increased demand by the electronics industry, have made it difficult to purchase the expensive and dwindling supply of cerium oxide.

To overcome this obstacle, the industry consortium, which was launched in December 2010, has begun testing alternative substance polishing agents such as aluminum and zirconium oxide, which are already partly used in polishing agents. Results from the testing will be recorded as a coordinated assessment scheme. At the conclusion of the screening phase, which is expected to be completed in November, the consortium will meet to discuss the results and determine what issues will require further research.

Polishing agents with positive results will be further examined by the industry consortium’s polish manufacturers, who have been involved in the early stages of testing to determine the number of alternatives available on the industrial scale. After subsequent optimization phase testing, the results will be submitted to the Federal Ministry for Education and Research for its research project, “Alternative Polish,” in collaboration with the University of Applied Sciences Deggendorf in Germany.

In addition, the consortium is investigating the possibility of recovering cerium oxide from Glaspolierschlämmen. The material could be reused as a polishing agent if good quality cerium oxide is recovered.

Spectaris represents the trade association Photonics + Precision Engineering, which includes 94 optical technologies manufacturers.

For more information, visit: www.spectaris.de  


GLOSSARY
cerium oxide
A polishing material that has a quicker polishing action than rouge (ferric oxide) and that is cleaner to handle.
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