Investing in Terbium

terbium commodity

Terbium is one of the heavy rare earth elements (HREE). Its appearance when refined is exceptionally silvery white. It is never found naturally in nature, but always in combination with other rare earth elements, especially yttrium.

As an element, it appears in the periodic table as the 65th element, with the abbreviation Tb. This metal is so soft it can be cut with a table knife. It also has the property of being able to be drawn out in a thin wire without breaking.


Terbium in History

Terbium is named after the town where it was originally discovered in gadolinite deposits. It remained an unidentified compound when first extracted by Swedish chemist Carl Gustaf Mosander in 1843.

Separating this element was extremely challenging with the chemistry known at that time. Without fluorescent technology, it was difficult to identify which of the yellow-brown oxides that formed were terbium.

It was discovered that terbium oxide produced a green or yellow phosphor depending on which other rare earth oxides were also present. This was put to use in color TV tubes. Its use continues in LCD and plasma screens.


Current Sources of Terbium

Terbium is found in many mineral deposits, including cerite (trace), gadolinite (trace), monazite (0.03%), xenotime (trace) and euxenite (1% or more). The ion-adsorption clay deposits in southern China, contain up to 1% terbium.

While the amounts of terbium are lower in bastnäsite, this is the primary source of the world's terbium supply. Because such large amounts of bastnäsite are processed on a global scale for the other rare earth elements, this source provides a steady supply.

Monazite sands are also a source of terbium using ion exchange. While up to two thirds of the world's rare earth stores are found in China, there are large deposits elsewhere.


How Terbium is Being Used Today

Terbium has a number of modern commercial applications. It is added to calcium fluoride, calcium tungstate and strontium molybdate for use in solid-state electrical conductors, insulators and semiconductors. It may be found in transistors, microprocessor chips and DRAM (dynamic random access memory).

Terbium, in combination with zirconium oxide stabilizes the crystals in fuel cells so they retain their magnetic properties as temperatures rise. The electrons present in terbium give off either a yellow or green light. X-ray screens take advantage of this property to produce the clearest pictures possible. This property is also used in computer screens of all types.

Terbium "green" phosphors are also essential to the production of "trichromatic" lighting. The combination of used with divalent europium blue phosphors and trivalent europium red phosphors produces the high light output seen in CFL bulbs, while using a fraction of the electricity required by incandescent bulbs. This use accounts for the largest consumption of terbium.

Terbium is also used in magnetorestrictive alloys. This type of alloy changes length when it is exposed to a magnetic field. This technology is found in loudspeakers that push against solids instead of the air. This enables any solid surface to be turned into a speaker. Terbium is also used as a stain in biological applications because of its fluorescent properties. Terbium alloys are used in magneto-optic recording films.


Economic Value of Terbium

From a rare earth metal that was hardly used at all, terbium is now considered a valuable of the rare earth elements, even if its applications aren't as broad as other members of the lanthanide group. The value of terbium produced outside of China is predicted to rise considerably, as China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology has already drafted a report recommending that terbium, along with other specific rare earth elements no longer be exported.

As of late October 2010 the price of metal terbium had risen from just over $550/kg a year before to almost $800/kg. The price of terbium oxide was hovering just over $600/kg, a significant rise from the price a year before of just over $350.00.


How to Invest in Terbium

Terbium is only found in its oxide form in nature. This means that the only way to actively invest in this rare earth element is to invest in companies that either extract terbium from rare earths or invest in the mining companies that are producing the ores.

With the Chinese market controlling much of the existing supply, there is a major rush on by Canadian, American and Australian companies to bring their rare earth holdings into full production. Some companies are expected to be in production by 2011, while others won't be to the extraction stage until 2013.

When deciding on which mining investments are a good buy, consider the existing financial stability of the company. A company that is closer to actual production will cost more to invest in but presents a lower risk of failure. Also, look for predictions of terbium content in the ores being mined.


Future demand for Terbium

As with all the other rare earth elements, demand for terbium is on the rise. Its application within hybrid cars is one factor guaranteed to drive its increased use. Currently there is a projected shortfall of terbium due to its use as a phosphor in CFL bulbs and other fluorescent lighting.


How to Locate Mining Stock to Invest In Terbium

The following list of mining companies reflects companies that are involved in rare earth mining. Though these companies may also mine other metals as well, their rare earth assets are sizeable. 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)
Commerce Resources Corp. (CVE: CCE)
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.


Terbium Quick Facts

  • »Scientists discovered that terbium helps other metals retain their magnetic field as temperatures rise, making it useful in hybrid cars.
  • »Give terbium oxide credit for the green color on your computer screen.
  • »Terbium produces a bright lemon-yellow fluorescent light.
  • »Terbium-doped glass is a brilliant red.


Chemical Compounds

  • » Terbium Citrate - Terbium Citrate is added to silver nanoparticles to enhance luminescence for transmission electron microscopy (TEM). Terbium citrate is also used to stain biological samples for electron microscopy.
  • » Terbium Oxide (TbO2, Tb2O3 or Tb4O7) - Terbium Oxide works as a redox catalyst. It changes the rate of chemical reactions without being affected by the reaction taking place. The formula Tb2O3 is combined with calcium to form p-type semiconductors.
  • » Sodium Terbium Borate (Tb2B3) - Terbium in this form becomes a laser material with coherent light emitting properties at a wave length of 5460Â.
  • » Terbium Sulfate (Tb2S3) - Terbium sulfate is one of the useful forms used to produce oxysulfide X-ray phosphors. Because the decay time of terbium is much longer than cerium, these phosphors produce a much clearer resolution of x-ray images.
  • » Terbium Chloride (TbCl3) - At 800oC, terbium chloride forms platelets with a graphite-like structure.
  • » Terbium Bromide (TbBr3) - This form of terbium must not be inhaled as it can cause a skin rash that resembles acne.
  • » Terbium Fluoride (TbF3 or TbF4) - Terbium fluoride films have been tested for thin-film capacitors.


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