Lanthanum is a lanthanoid with many uses. Nickel-metal hydride batteries require lanthanum in their production. The engine of a Toyota Prius contains almost 10 pounds of lanthanum.
The lightest rare earth element (REE) in the lanthanide series. It is a soft, silvery-white mineral found chiefly in monazite and bastnasite ores. Its importance to clean energy is mainly through battery alloys and phosphors. Lanthanum is used in NiMH batteries either as high-purity material or part of mischmetal (a combination of Ce, La, Nd and Pr). NiMH batteries are currently used in almost all hybrid-electric vehicles. Less than 10% of lanthanum supplies are used for lighting phosphors. Demand for phosphors is expected to increase in the short term as fluorescent bulbs gain market share.
Lanthanum is relatively abundant, though increased clean energy demand and coproduction issues may compromise lanthanum supplies in the short and medium terms. It is the second most abundant lanthanide after cerium. The relative low value compared to other light and medium REEs with which it is co-produced limits lanthanum production, resulting in supply shortages, though substitute lighting and battery technologies could mitigate demand. Other major applications for lanthanum include its use in alloys and fluid cracking catalysts for petroleum refining. Demand growth in these technologies is not expected to be as significant as the demand growth for clean energy applications. It is also used in hydrogen technology applications for hydrogen gas storage and energy conservation, though these technologies are not expected to be commercialized and deployed in large numbers for some time.
Lanthanum is produced predominantly in China, which instituted significant export quotas and tariffs on all REEs for resource conservation and environmental regulatory reasons. New mines in Australia, Canada and the United States will provide additional supply, but are subject to strict permitting processes and environmental regulations, which have the potential to delay production. The United States has one domestic source (Molycorp) and other potential future domestic sources. Large amounts of Lanthanum exist in monazite ores found in India, Brazil, Australia and Africa. By 2015, non-Chinese mines are expected to provide significant additional production.
Lanthanum Producers Molycorp (NYSE: MCP)
Metall Rare Earth Limited - http://www.metall.com.cn/la.htm Great Western Minerals Group (CVE: GWG) Neo Material Technologies (TSE: NEM) Avalon Rare Metals (TSE: AVL)
(wiki) - Lanthanum on Wikipedia
Lanthanum News 2011-07-28 - (im) - Molycorp to sell 75% of Mountain Pass lanthanum to one customer
2011-05-25 - (kid) - Lanthanum: From green light to green energy
2011-05-18 - (sl) - Investigation of LaFeO3 perovskite growth mechanism through mechanical ball milling of lanthanum and iron oxides
2010-10-26 - (bloomberg) - Rare earths rival lure of Navigator Resources' gold, fuel share 'bubble'
2010-10-25 - (bloomberg) - Lynas says rare earths demand to grow at 9% a year
2010-10-21 - (csm) - Top 5 'rare earth' minerals: What are they?
2010-10-20 - (az) - UW-Madison professor's new technique ideal for nanoelectronic applications