NOV 18, 2019 9:00 AM PST

The Elements that Could Go "Extinct"?

WRITTEN BY: Daniel Duan

Extinction doesn't just happen in the world of biology — it might also have to chemical elements. Our world of modern technologies relies on a lot of different scarce minerals. Scientists are concerned that we may run out of these "critical" materials, which can lead to disruptions in supply chains and the economy as a whole. 

In a 2018 study, researchers identified some of the elements that the global community deems as critical. They are the rare-earth elements (the fifteen lanthanides), the platinum-group metals (ruthenium, rhodium, palladium, osmium, iridium, and platinum), and indium. 

Indium, for example, has been mined and used in producing LCD screen TVs and monitors, cell phones, and other portable devices, even solar panels. The world could literally come to a stop without it.

While finding non-critical substance as alternatives can help, scientists are encouraging us to adopt a convenient yet highly effective way to reduce the criticality of these elements — recycling of old electronics when they reach the end of life. 

Most electronic waste (e-waste) contains a variety of precious metals, which could be as high as 50 times more concentrated than that in ores. Recovering them can reduce the risk of shortage and the need for mining. Recycling e-waste can also divert toxic substances such as lead, mercury, cadmium, and chromium from landfills and help protect our environment.

Source: SciShow via Youtube

About the Author
  • Graduated with a bachelor degree in Pharmaceutical Science and a master degree in neuropharmacology, Daniel is a radiopharmaceutical and radiobiology expert based in Ottawa, Canada. With years of experience in biomedical R&D, Daniel is very into writing. He is constantly fascinated by what's happening in the world of science. He hopes to capture the public's interest and promote scientific literacy with his trending news articles. The recurring topics in his Chemistry & Physics trending news section include alternative energy, material science, theoretical physics, medical imaging, and green chemistry.
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