Electrifying society

Electrification term bank

Learn more about some key terms.

Critical raw materials:
Critical raw materials are raw materials that are vital for the modern economy and society, and whose availability entails risks. For example, the European Union is fully dependent on China for its rare earth metals. The EU maintains a list of critical raw materials. Many of the raw materials on the list have very important roles in the green transformation, such as rare earth metals and cobalt and lithium, which are important for the battery industry.

Rare earth metals: 
A total of 17 rare earth metals exist. They include neodymium, which is used in the manufacture of permanent magnets, and terbium, which is used in the colour displays of electronic devices. Despite their designation, these metals are not actually rare in the earth's crust, but in practice, their extraction, and especially their refinement, has focused almost exclusively on China. The processing of rare earth metals is cumbersome and separating the different metals from each other is difficult because of their chemical similarities.

Circular economy of metals: 
Metals are recyclable raw materials whose value grows with demand. The circular economy of metals means that the raw material is kept in circulation for as long as possible, as material for new products, for example. Metals can be extracted from industrial effluent or used smartphones, for example, and used for other purposes.

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