The corrosion-resistant titanium plates that extend over the sea underneath Haneda Airport’s Runway D are designed to last for 100 years. What are the raw materials that make this technology possible?
Rare metals essential to industries
Titanium is a lightweight, highly durable and corrosion-resistant material used in everything from watches and eye-glasses to aircrafts and skyscrapers. Japan is a leader in titanium manufacturing technologies, accounting for about 20% of global production.
Rare metals including titanium are essential for the production of cell phones, medical equipment, liquid-crystal display (LCD) screens, and hybrid vehicles. Rare metals function like vitamins, helping Japan’s high-tech industries stay globally competitive and bolstering the foundation of the Japanese economy.
Dependence on overseas sources
However, Japan is dependent on imports for most rare metals. With only a select few countries produce rare metals, consumer countries such as Japan are vulnerable to shortages and delays created by policy shifts in producing nations. Securing a stable supply of rare metals and other mineral resources is the key to maintaining and enhancing the global competitiveness of Japanese manufacturing.
Efforts to secure a stable supply
To secure mineral resources from inside and outside Japan, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) has requested 15.4 billion yen for FY2017 budget, up 2 billion yen from the previous year. Not only does METI make efforts to recycle the rare metals contained in used personal electronics, it is also exploring methods to diversify rare metal supplies and develop technologies to produce alternative materials.