You may not have heard of scandium and yttrium, but rare earth elements like these are all around us – in our homes, at work and even in our pockets.
The problem is that they come almost exclusively from resource-hungry China, and if supplies start to dwindle our high-tech industries are at risk.
Horizon looks at the researchers who are trying to solve this, by making components that don’t need them, by developing ways to recycle them from electronic waste, and by investigating how to mine and process them here in Europe.
Political challenges rather than geological availability are what threatens the EU’s supply of raw materials, according to Dr Henrike Sievers from the German Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources, who is working on a project to map all of Europe’s own mineral resources.
Magnets are at the heart of our love affair with tech, but they are currently made from hard-to-get components whose supply is under threat. Now, European scientists are developing replacements based on cutting-edge manufacturing processes and common elements.
Rare earth deposits found in Sweden, Finland, Greece and Spain suggest that Europe could reduce its reliance on imports of these critical raw materials, but the biggest challenge facing scientists is how best to extract and process them.
The languages we speak and how we speak them are an integral part of our identity, shaping not only how we see the world but also how people see us. In January, Horizon puts language under the spotlight, kicking off the month with a look at Europe’s minority languages and how to preserve them. We also delve into the social and cognitive aspects of language use, finding out how accents arise and how they affect people’s perception of the speaker, and discovering how ageing affects linguistic capacity in bilingual people – and vice versa. We also speak to researchers looking into the language impairment dyslexia and potential options for early diagnosis.
When it comes to climate change, it is often said that what happens in the Arctic does not stay in the Arctic. This month, with the COP24 UN climate change conference taking place in Katowice, Poland, Horizon looks north to the region of the world that is feeling the effects of global warming most acutely. We speak to Marianne Kroglund from the Arctic Council about whether it is too late to save the fragile ecosystems there and examine how studies of ice melt show that the world may still have a fighting chance of limiting sea level rise. We find out how the Arctic environment could be protected in the face of increased maritime traffic and look at the effect of melting permafrost – soil, sediment or rock that’s been frozen for at least two years – on the environment and local communities.
Robust, intelligent robots that react to their surroundings are being developed to work in situations that are too dangerous for humans, such as cleaning up Europe’s decades-old radioactive waste or helping during a nuclear emergency.
Listening to someone speaking with a foreign accent makes human brains work harder which can lead to unintentional discrimination against people communicating in languages other than their own, new research suggests. But exposure to foreign accents can also change the way people speak, and over time, the ensuing accents can become new languages.
AI has been successfully tested in a real-world, radioactive environment.
There might be a cognitive explanation for why bias exists.
More regulations won't prevent drone disruption, says security expert Dan Hermansen.