Aug 112011
 
Baiyun Obo Mine Will the Future of Fluorescent Lighting Be Shaky?

A mine in Baiyun Obo, which produces half the world's rare earth elements. Photo courtesy of Treehugger.

Remember our post on why fluorescent light bulbs are becoming more expensive?

Well, the Chinese government is beginning to enforce those export restrictions on rare earth elements. According to an article in Times LIVE, China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology will now punish rare earth producers that fail to stick to the nationwide production cap.

Enterprises exceeding quotas will have licenses cancelled, and will also face government action if they are caught buying ore from mines that violate government guidelines.

It is unclear whether the production cap for 2011 of 93,800 tonnes has already been met, but a number of plants have closed down.

What does this mean for fluorescent lighting? For a fluorescent light bulb to create light, there must be a phosphor coating inside its glass envelope. While phosphor is not a rare earth element, rare earth elements are a crucial component to the process of creating the light-producing tri-phosphors inside the lamps.

The production cap is meant to crack down on illegal production of rare earth elements. However, since China produces about 97 percent of the global supply, the policy is affecting the production of countless products in the green tech industry that count on rare earth minerals.

by

Emily WidleEmily graduated from UNC Chapel Hill with a degree in journalism. She enjoys scouring the news to report on the latest in the lighting industry as well as bringing valuable remodeling tips and exemplar home projects to light.

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 Posted by on August 11, 2011 at 10:31 am
  • Mark Ehlen

    Phosphor is NOT an REE, but the phosphor process includes REEs so as to improve red, green, and blue phosphorescence.

    Thanks,

    Mark

    • http://www.PegasusLighting.com Emily Widle

      Mark,
      Thanks for the correction. You’re right, phosphor itself is not a rare earth element although REE are part of the process. I’m going to update the article, that was an oversight! I appreciate your comment.

  • http://www.litecraftlightbulbs.co.uk Rich Ronson

    Surely this price rise will push people to move over to LEDs then as they are (slowly) coming down in price as the technology develops?

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