MAJOR MINOR: Welcome to the Rare Metal Age

Anthony Lipmann considers China’s global dominance over rare earths in his review of David S Abraham’s book The Elements of Power – gadgets, guns and the struggle for a sustainable future in the rare metal age (Yale University Press).

David S Abraham is in London at the Royal Institute of International Affairs to talk about his book, The Elements of Power, to a small audience of people gathered from the world of resources. To make his point, he holds out and unfurls a long tangled piece of hair-wire and asks for a lighter. After a bit of rustling in pockets, a lighter is produced and, under the disdainful portrait of the First Earl of Chatham, William Pitt the elder, he places a flame under various parts of the wire. While the attendees gape a little in fear for tomorrow's headlines, we watch as the wire reforms to a perfect neat and tidy coil. What we have witnessed is one example of the present day magic of materials science. The alloy is Nitinol, an alloy of titanium and nickel, so called ‘the shape memory metal’. Cast at a certain temperature,...


Anthony Lipmann

June 16, 2016

13:26 GMT