Europium is the most reactive of the rare earth elements. It has been used to dope some types of glass to make lasers. It is also used in Euro banknotes for anticounterfeiting measures, and in LED TVs to create a red color. Europium is used as As an activator for yttrium-based phosphors in television and LCD screens. It has expanded use in nuclear reactors, due to great affinity to absorb neutrons. No competing use is expected to increase demand as rapidly as lighting.
A heavy rare earth element (HREE) with the atomic number 63, Europium is a ductile metal with the same relative hardness of lead. Combining Eu phosphor compounds with terbium phosphor compounds produces the white light of helical fluorescent light bulbs and is a primary component in the production of T8 and T5 fluorescent tubes. Demand will increase during the anticipated switch from high-volume halophosphor fluorescent lamps to T8 and T5 linear and compact fluorescent tubes as a result of DOE rulemaking and worldwide trends. Increased demand is expected until light emitting diode (LED) bulbs (which use much less REEs) achieve significant market penetration.
Beginning in July 2012, U.S. DOE rulemaking on general service fluorescent lamps will increase demand for linear fluorescent lamps (LFLs), which use europium phosphors. U.S. consumer demand for compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) is growing. On January 1, 2012, new U.S. federal minimum efficiency standards for general service lighting will dramatically raise demand for CFLs and consequently demand for europium. Similar standards will be implemented in the European Union and other regions and will largely eliminate traditional incandescent lamps from the market.
No proven substitute for europium in fluorescent lamps has been identified, and there are no known substitutes for europium as a red phosphor in television or LCD screens. Advanced LED technology using greatly reduced or no REEs may begin to replace fluorescent bulbs, but not until well into the medium term. As with most REEs, and especially with the “heavy” elements like europium, the majority of current supply comes from China. Industry expert predicts a supply shortage as early as 2011. Several possible sources could mitigate constriction in the medium term.
Europium is one of the scarcest REEs, and demand for Eu is expected to exceed supply in the 2014 and 2015 timeframe. In the medium term, new mines are projected to significantly increase supply, although demand will continue to grow with increased use of LFLs and CFLs. It is predominantly produced in China, which instituted significant export quotas and tariffs on REEs based on resource conservation and environmental regulations. New mines in Australia, Canada and the United States will provide additional supply, but are subject to strict permitting processes and environmental regulations.
Eu supply from China occurs as a byproduct of the yttrium-rich, ion-adsorption clay ores in the south China region and in bastnasite ores from Mongolia. Both yttrium and Eu are in high demand; co-dependence should diminish the supply risk of each. Although China currently produces almost all europium, non-Chinese mines coming on line by 2015 are expected to significantly increase the diversity of supply.
Europium producers Molycorp - http://www.molycorp.com/products/europium.html - Molycorp is a mining and marketing subsidiary of Chevron (NYSE: CVX) that produces europium, in addition to molybdenum and other lanthanide elements.
Metall Rare Earth Limited - http://www.metall.com.cn/eu.htm Great Western Minerals Group (CVE: GWG)
American Elements - http://www.americanelements.com/eu.html - Europium metal, europium oxide, europium acetate, europium carbonate, europium chloride, europium fluoride, europium nitrate, europium oxalate, and europium sulfate.
Avalon Rare Metals (TSE: AVL)