Japanese Uses Ultrasound To Detect Rare Earths
Japanese media reported that Kentaro Nakamura, an associate professor at the University of Tokyo, and others developed a method for efficiently discovering rare earth mud layers on the seafloor. Ultrasonic waves were sent from the survey vessel to the seafloor, and then the reflected waves of the ultrasound waves were analyzed to confirm whether there is a mud layer containing high concentrations of rare-earth at a shallower position on the seafloor. If drilling surveys take 1 to 2 months, the new method can shorten the survey time to a few days, thereby reducing costs. It also helps to target areas where development is expected.
It is reported that rare earth can be used in high-performance magnets for pure electric vehicles and hybrid vehicle motors, and is also an indispensable material for light-emitting LEDs and fuel cells. For Japan, ensuring stable procurement has become an urgent issue.
In 2018, Professor Kato Tato and others from the University of Tokyo announced that a large amount of rare earth existed in the seafloor around the Japanese islands, which is equivalent to the global consumption of rare earths for hundreds of years. In Japan, the sound of collecting rare earths in the exclusive economic zone around the relevant islands is expected to heat up.
Prof. Jun Nakamura and others analyzed the samples collected before and investigated the characteristics of the reflected waves emitted by the high-concentration rare earth layer when the survey ship emitted ultrasonic waves. Based on the analysis results, technology was developed to find rare earth layers in shallower areas within 5 meters of the seafloor based on the characteristics of reflections.
According to the report, in the relevant sea areas, some mud layers containing high concentrations of rare earths are covered with deposits of 10 to 20 meters. If the newly developed technology is used, it is possible to efficiently lock areas with fewer deposits and easy to collect rare earths.
According to the report, at present, because the ultrasonic waves are sent from the sea-based exploration vessel, the approximate distribution of a few kilometers in the square area can only be grasped. If an autonomous unmanned submarine is used and ultrasonic waves are released for exploration in the sea, the area can be locked with an accuracy of about 10 meters square.
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