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 model of our universe as expanding at an accelerated rate has given rise to theoretical constructs such as dark energy and dark matter, which scientists believe could make up 95% of the universe. In September, Horizon takes a deeper look at what we really know about the expanding universe. We speak to Prof. Subir Sarkar, who believes that the Nobel-winning discovery that universe expansion acceleration could be a fluke, and the scientists who are trying to answer the question by allowing us to better measure the expansion rate. We also look at the significance of accurately measuring gravity in deep space, and what dark matter haloes can tell us about the existence of dark energy.
This month, Horizon takes an in-depth look at a shared human trait – our emotions. We find out how science is seeking to better understand and regulate human emotions across a range of applications, from mental health to politics. We uncover the implications of a neuroscientist’s efforts to determine how the brain controls fear and anxiety, with possible implications for treating mental health disorders and autism. We explore how emotions shape our politics and ask whether this can help provide a different perspective on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And we look at research examining how apps and online games can help people manage their emotional sides.
A new space telescope designed to peer into some of the farthest regions of the universe could finally answer one of the most puzzling questions surrounding Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity.
One of the biggest drawbacks of electric vehicles – that they require hours and hours to charge – could be obliterated by a new type of liquid battery that is roughly ten times more energy-dense than existing models, according to Professor Lee Cronin, the Regius Chair of Chemistry at the University of Glasgow, UK.
New observations may provide alternative explanations for dark energy.
The technology could work with existing infrastructures, says Prof. Lee Cronin
We need to double-check the evidence on dark energy, as it may not exist at all, says Prof. Subir Sarkar.