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.
From alternative currencies in Limburg to virus-hunters tracking down the next pandemic, there’s plenty of cutting-edge research and innovation in Belgium. For the open day of European institutions in Brussels, Horizon has gone into its archives and pulled together a list of its top articles featuring scientists in the northern European country.
How will we have enough food to feed another 2 billion people by the middle of this century without destroying our planet? Agriculture is already one of the biggest contributors to climate change. This month, we hear from scientists designing disease-resistant crops using gene editing, packing more calcium into finger millet, and resurrecting ancient crop varieties to offset the sector’s environmental impact. Plus, we hear from Dr Manoj Dora about so-called lean agriculture, which is looking to make agriculture more sustainable by eliminating waste from the production process.
An on-demand style of farming inspired by the Toyota car manufacturing lines of the 1950s could be the key to improving efficiency on farms, which would in turn lead to cheaper food in European supermarkets, according to Dr Manoj Dora from Brunel University London in the UK.
For most women, the first pregnancy is a joyous time that they will remember with tenderness for the rest of their lives. But for 5 % of all pregnant women around the world, the journey towards childbirth takes an unexpected turn for the worse.
‘Lean’ farming could reduce waste.
Pre-eclampsia affects 800 000 women a year worldwide.
SESAME co-founder helped set up Middle East particle accelerator to build bridges in the region.