Almost all future energy saving lighting and display technologies, such as compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), light emitting diodes (LEDs), organic light emitting diodes (OLEDs), plasma displays and LCDs require the use of rare earths as phosphors, providing a high energy efficiency and high colour quality.
Cathode ray tube (CRT) and plasma televisions as well as computer monitors are coated with phosphors which, when subject to low pressure UV excitation, generate the primary colours red, blue, and green. Red colours require phosphors of the Rare Earth Element europium, for which there is no alternative. The introduction of plasma televisions saw the development of a new blue europium phosphor that retains brightness ten times longer than previous blue phosphors. Phosphors generating the colour green are doped with the Rare Earth Element terbium. A combination of these primary colour phosphors are used to create the white 'backlight' used in LCD screens and the energy efficient 'tri-phosphor' light bulbs.
Flat screen and plasma televisions provide a new and growing field of consumption of HREE's, the traditional supply of which is extremely restricted and concentrated within China. The massive increase in smart phones and tablet computers will be a big influence on demand in this area.
Neodymium and samarium magnets are much more powerful than traditional ferric magnet alternatives. These magnets providing much better performance under a wider range of operating conditions, so allowing effective miniaturization and production of compact, lightweight and powerful motors.
In portable electronics, including Apple's popular iPod music player, tiny Neo magnets are used to drive the speakers within earphones resulting in smaller, lighter speakers with faster base response and lower overall distortion. Such technology would not be possible without the role played by Rare Earth Elements.