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Smartphone boom hurts green energy industry

Explosive demand for tablet PCs and smartphones has set back plans to develop more environment-friendly technology. Rare earth resources and rare metals used to make solar cells and wind turbines are instead being sold to manufacturers of mobile electronic gadgets, pushing up the price.

One example is indium, whose transparent and conductive qualities make it an indispensible material for the touchscreens of tablet PCs and smartphones. Indium is also a core ingredient of next-generation solar cells.

Now the U.S. Department of Energy predicts a crisis in supply of indium within the next five years, the New Scientist weekly reported Monday.

The department said neodymium and dysprosium, which are needed for making high performance magnets for wind turbines, and europium, terbium and yttrium, which are core elements for highly efficient power cells, are also in short supply.

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