A professor at Tohoku University will present his latest view on "critical metals" at the Symposium on Rare Metals and Other Mineral Resources, which will take place July 18, 2008, at IIS.

Takashi Nakamura, a professor of the Institute of Multidisciplinary Research for Advanced Materials (IMRAM) of Tohoku University, made this announcement. The symposium will be co-hosted by the Institute of Industrial Science (IIS) of the University of Tokyo and IMRAM.

According to Japan Technology Association and Metal Economics Research Institute, Japan (MERI/J), the term "critical metal" refers to (1) metal that is essential as a material or an ingredient, (2) metal with increasing demand and a sign of inadequate supply and (3) metal that cannot be replaced by other metals even when its price surges.

Based on these definitions, critical metals include about 11 elements, namely, base metals copper and zinc, noble metals such as gold, silver and the platinum group and the rare metals tungsten, indium and gallium. (Rare earth metals are counted as one element as a whole.)

"Although the term 'rare metal,' meaning metal that is precious, is widely used at present, the word 'critical metal' is better suited to describe a metal resource for which a shortage is feared," Nakamura said.

What is remarkable about this definition of "critical metal" is that the metals indicated by the term are varied due to factors such as increased demand, price increases and resource nationalism.

"When considering the issues relating to environmental regulations and insufficient resources, zinc is now a typical critical metal, although it is not included in rare metals," Nakamura said.

Critical metals are indispensable metal elements for high-tech industries in Japan. Therefore, in order to secure sufficient resources and ensure stable procurement, it is necessary to establish a comprehensive management system for a critical metal resource strategy, Nakamura said. For this purpose, resource diplomacy and the development of technology for effective recovery and recycling must be promoted, in addition to material development for utilizing procurable ubiquitous elements.

"I will explain our opinion on critical metals at the Symposium on Rare Metals and Other Mineral Resources," Nakamura said at the 32nd Rare Metal Conference (chaired by Toru Okabe, an associate professor of IIS) on June 13, 2008, at IIS, where he was invited to deliver a lecture.