Investing in Europium
As the name suggests the 63rd element in the periodic table was named after the continent of Europe. Europium is identified by the abbreviation Eu. It is recognizes as one of the heavy rare earth elements (HREE).
Europium is similar to lead in that it is easy to bend and shape. When exposed to high pressure at low temperatures, it becomes a superconductor. At other temperatures the superconductive properties of the metal are suppressed.
Europium, like most of the other lanthanide metals oxidizes when exposed to air. This forms a mustard yellow powder. Because of its high reactivity to air, it is stored in mineral oil. If temperatures reach 150 to 180oC, europium ignites to form europium oxide. If added to water, the oxygen in the water will produce europium oxide as well [Eu(OH)3].
Europium in History
The famous chemist Paul Émile Lecoq de Boisbaudran discovered europium in a samarium-gadolinium concentrate in 1890. Unfortunately his work was overlooked and credit for the discovery went to Eugène-Anatole Demarçay, a French chemist who first expressed his convictions that his samarium samples were contaminated with an as yet unknown element in 1896. He succeeded in isolating the element in 1901.
Europium-doped yttrium orthovanadate red phosphor became a key player in developing color televisions with the ability to display red adequately. Prior to the discovery that europium enhanced red phosphor production, the other colors had to be muted. This meant that the brightness of the color TV screen had to be muted. Europium has played a role in color TVs ever since.
Current Sources of Europium
Europium only appears in combination with other rare earth elements. It is found most commonly in bastnäsite and monazite deposits. Some deposits to have higher levels of europium present. Such deposits are said to contain a europium anomaly.
The primary mining operations for these ores are currently centered in China's Bayan Obo region. Deposits that are high in europium have been discovered in Alaska but have not been developed.
There are some additional minor sources of europium. The mineral xenotime contains europium. Nuclear fission by-products also contain this HREE mineral.
There is some experimentation with recycling europium from spent fluorescent lights. The possibility for doing economically in an industrial setting has been demonstrated by Central Metallurgical R&D Institute. Japan is leading the world in "urban mining", the recycling of used electronics for the REEs contained in them.
How Europium is Being Used Today
Europium has many commercial applications. In addition to use in traditional color TV and CRT computer screens. Europium chloride and europium oxides are also essential for color liquid crystal displays (LCDs) and plasma display panels (PDPs)
Europium is also added to glass for certain types of lasers. It shows promise in a number of applications such as electro-optical devices, optical communication amplifiers, and optical storage materials based on hole-burning techniques.
This rare earth element is also used to screen for some genetic abnormalities, such as Down syndrome.
Europium oxide is often combined with the halide elements (chlorine, fluorine, etc.) to produce a variety of phosphorescent color combinations. These phosphorescent combinations are then used in fluorescent bulbs to alter the color produced by the bulbs. It is thus a key component in today's energy efficient fluorescent lighting.
Europium is used to dope other compounds. When europium doped strontium aluminate powder is added to paint, it creates a green or aqua phosphorescent paint.
Economic Value of Europium
Pure refined europium is one of the most expensive of the rare earth elements. Costs range from about $750/kg. to $854/kg. The rarity of europium and its importance to technology keeps the cost high, even though extraction methods are far more efficient than they were in the past.
Currently China produces almost the entire supply of europium available. The price has remained stable at around $800/kg for the pure metal. Oxide prices have risen over the last year from around almost $500/kg to almost $650/kg.
How to Invest in Europium
You can invest in europium indirectly by investing in mining operations that are developing rare earth deposits. At this time, it is best to stick with companies that are developing resources outside of China, as investing in China still presents some issues due to communism.
The most important thing to look for is a listing for monazite and bastnäsite deposits among a mining company's holdings. The next thing to consider is what stage the company is at. Has it already actively developed those holdings, or is it still seeking to develop? Investing in companies are that still in the development stage can be a good investment, but the investment is riskier for a developing company than one that is established already.
One company that presents an excellent profile is Rare Element Resources. This publicly traded company owns high-grade REE property that is also recognized for a high level of gold within the same deposit. The ability to extract materials of value from more than one resource offers an advantage for investment stability.
The companies that develop and produce specialty chemicals from rare earth elements are also another way to invest in europium indirectly. The companies that extract rare earth elements are an essential part of the supply chain. This makes them a good choice for investment purposes. While the short-term value of this type of company can be affected negatively by a shortfall in rare earth mineral supplies, if you invest for long-term growth, this is a smart strategy.
Not all of these companies are listed on the stock exchange. This need not be an obstacle in some cases. Some companies are open to private investors.
Future demand for Europium
There is serious concern that the demand for europium is going to rapidly fall below demand. With China currently controlling availability of the ores from which this rare earth element is extracted as well as availability of the refined product, the inability to purchase enough of this element has the potential to cripple the production of many of the high-tech products we have come to depend on.
Europium is found almost everywhere we look today. Those smart phones we use, our plasma TV screens, and those energy efficient LED light bulbs all depend on europium to display red.
Reuters predicts that demand will grow by at least 8% per year.
How to Locate Mining Stock to Invest In Europium
The following list of mining companies and the stock exchanges they are traded on is the beginning of entering the world of rare earth element investments. This list has been narrowed down to companies that mine rare earth elements, including lanthanum, though they may also mine other metals as well. While some companies only hold mining rights in their native country, others have holdings in foreign countries that have rare earth resources.
Alkane Resources Ltd. (ASX: ALK)
Arafura Resources Ltd. (ASX: ARU)
Aurizon Mines Ltd (AMEX: AZK)
Avalon Rare Metals Inc (TSX: AVL)
Consolidated Abaddon Resources Inc (TSXV: ABN)
Eagle Plains Resources Ltd (TSX: EPL)
Gossan Resources Ltd (TSXV: GSS) (minor metals)
Great Western Minerals Group (CVE: GWG)
Molycorp Minerals LLC (MCP:NYSE)
Neo Material Technologies (TSE: NEM)
Rare Element Resources Ltd. (RES:TSX.V)
To locate more potential investments visit The Mining Almanac.com. Chose the filters you want to use, and you will be able to locate multiple publicly traded companies, along with financial data to help guide your investment decisions.
Europium Quick Facts
- » The pure form of europium is relatively useless.
- » When divalent europium appears in fluorite (CaF2), it produces a bright blue fluorescence.
- » Europium absorbs neutrons so its potential for use in nuclear reactors is of interest to scientists.
- » Euro banknotes use europium based anti-counterfeiting phosphors in the paper.
- » Europium Chloride - Europium chloride plays a key role in producing the phosphors used in both color cathode-ray tubes and in LCD flat-screen displays.
- » Europium Ammonium Tetra Chelate - Europium is invisible under ordinary light conditions. Because it exhibits fluorescence upon exposure to UV light and is soluble in alcohol and alcohol/water based solution, it may be added to ink formulations, among other applications.
- » Europium Oxide (Eu2O3) - Europium oxides produce either blue or red phosphors. If the form of europium is divalent, the resulting phosphor will be blue. If the form of europium is trivalent, the resulting phosphor will be red. If it is combined with terbium phosphor, europium produces a "white" light.
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