Mining of technology metals soon also in Germany? (72)

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China opens battery market for foreign producers

Those who wanted to produce electric vehicles in China so far had only limited options for accumulators. According to the government in Beijing, a fixed list was in place, on which all approved battery producers could be found. Unsurprisingly, with one exception, the list consisted exclusively of Chinese companies. The market leaders such as LG, Samsung or Panasonic were not to be found on the list. It is hardly surprising that only 12 percent of all the accumulators installed came from foreign sources.

Now Beijing has officially abolished the list. The news service Roskill expects the share of foreign products to increase to 25 percent by 2025. The background to the decision is likely to be that China can no longer meet the needs of its automotive industry itself. The demand is huge: last year, more than one million electric cars and around 200,000 electric commercial vehicles were sold in China. By comparison, about 70,000 vehicles were sold in Germany over the same period of time.


Mining of technology metals soon also in Germany?

A new membrane system is intended to revolutionize the extraction of strategic metals such as indium or germanium. The TU Bergakademie Freiberg is testing the filter so that it can be used at other locations in the future. In the next two years, the desk-sized facility will be located at a depth of around 150 m in the “Reiche Zeche” training mine. If the plant works as planned, it can simplify the extraction of strategic metals to date. As fewer intermediate chemical steps will be required, the process will become significantly more environmentally friendly.

If the process were to prove itself on an industrial scale, it could increase the chances producing and processing technology metals to a significant extent on German soil. Raw materials would certainly be available: In Pöhla, just 70 km away from Freiberg, the mining company SME recently came across Indium in its search for tungsten deposits.



Solar cell with rearview mirror

Thin film solar cells made of cadmium telluride or gallium arsenide are already many times thinner than silicon solar cells. They are also faster to manufacture. One drawback is the higher cost – silicon is simply much cheaper than gallium or indium. Researchers from Paris and Freiberg have taken a decisive step forward with a trick that could have come from the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles: They developed a nanostructured mirror layer of silver and titanium dioxide on the back of the solar cell. As a result, they steered the incoming sunlight several times through the semiconductor layer of gallium arsenide and were thus able to significantly increase the efficiency.

In the first experiment, they achieved an efficiency of almost 20 percent. Silicon solar cells create up to 29 percent. However, the researchers are confident that they will be able to increase efficiency to 25 percent in the foreseeable future. With the new technology, the semiconductor layer only needs to be a good 200 nanometers thick, which is about one tenth of the previous thickness. Due to the massive reduction in material consumption, the mirror technology of the gallium thin-film solar cell could help to achieve a significant market share. In this case, an increase in gallium demand would be firmly to be expected.


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EU invests heavily in technology research

The EU has announced how the last tranche of the Horizon 2020 research funding programme will be split in 2020. EUR 11 billion will be distributed, which is the largest annual amount of the programme, which has been running since 2014, with a total volume of EUR 77 billion. Research into low-carbon, climate-resilient technologies therefore accounts for EUR 3.7 billion, or more than a third. For example, the environmental footprint of industry is to be reduced, but improvements in battery technology and energy solutions for cities are also on the list of supported areas.

Carlos Moedas, European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, said: “Horizon 2020 generates new knowledge and new technologies and has a strong economic impact. Of the EUR 100 we are investing in Horizon 2020, we expect them to generate EUR 850 for our gross domestic product by 2030, creating millions of jobs for Europeans.”