Pangaea Blog

Pangaea invests in early stage cleantech companies with world-class advanced materials innovation.

While the periodic table may depict rare earth metals in one of the two additional rows thrown in at the very bottom, almost as an ad-hoc afterthought, these elements shouldn't be overlooked. They play significant roles in many large disparate industries and geopolitics alike.

Magnets are perhaps the best-known application for rare earth elements (REEs). Permanent magnets made from alloys of REEs with transition metals and boron enable commercial production of the strongest permanent magnets known today. Stronger magnets allow for smaller, lighter replacements of traditional ferrite-based and alnico magnets. From computer hard drives to neomagnet building set toys to open MRI scanners, rare earth magnets are finding their way in to products all around us both large and small.

A penny saved is a penny earned. An old idiom still frequently uttered today. And its core value extends well beyond basic finance to energy. While "a watt saved is a watt earned" doesn't have quite the same ring to it, the implications are much the same.

Silicon has served us well over the last 55 years since the first integrated circuit was invented at Texas Instruments. Today, the symphony of chemistry, physics and engineering required to orchestrate the production of 22nm node chips in the latest Intel or TSMC fabs represents the pinnacle of 21st century technology. As great as Silicon may be as the driver of today's digital world, for many applications its properties make it a terrible semiconductor choice. For example, its electron bandgap is not compatible with light emission for LEDs, while its electrical and thermal properties make it an extremely inefficient choice for power electronics. Fortunately, the periodic table has come to the rescue with a vast array of compound semiconductors waiting to fill the gap.

Electronics are complicated products. When you stop to really think about it and itemize the components of your flat screen TV, tablet, and even LED light bulb, there is much more than circuitry, wiring, and glass contained inside. There is, in fact, a significant opportunity for materials innovation as manufacturers seek to provide products that are lighter, faster, and more energy efficient. My colleague Andrew has previously blogged about LED lighting innovation in relation to increasing energy efficiency, and here I will focus on transparent conductive electrodes (TCEs), which are used in touch panels, flat displays, photovoltaics, lighting, and more.

The average cost of a 30 second ad during last week’s Superbowl was about $4 million. So when a power outage delays the game for 34 minutes, it’s kind of a big deal. It looks bad for the Superdome, the local utility company (Entergy), the perhaps-not-yet-fully recovered city of New Orleans, the NFL, and for the US at large. CBS was caught off guard and some awkward pauses and transitions accompanied the bizarre turn of events. We can’t keep the lights on at an event averaging over 100 million viewers?