Can a dysprosium shortage threaten green energy technologies?
Dysprosium, one of the various rare earth elements, is currently for more than 99% mined in China. As China is reducing its exports, new mining projects outside of China are needed to sustain supply and meet future demands. Dysprosium is mainly used in permanent magnets to retain the magnet's strength at elevated temperatures. Therefore, the use of dysprosium doped permanent magnets is preferred in electric vehicles and direct-drive wind turbines. Based on four scenarios it could be shown that dysprosium demand will probably outstrip supply in the short term (up to 2020). Although new mines are being developed, it takes several years for them to become productive. For the long term it is expected that enough dysprosium oxide is available in the earth crust (which is economically feasible to mine with current dysprosium prices) to fulfil the projected demand of dysprosium up to 2050. Recycling of dysprosium can further secure dysprosium supply in the long term by reducing primary dysprosium use by 35% in 2050. Electric vehicles are likely to play a dominant role in future increases in dysprosium demand. Even with the limited market share in 2011, electric vehicles already contribute to 20% of dysprosium use.