Critical minerals in lifestyle

Critical minerals resources: Modern life doesn't grow on trees

Live, laugh, look at what we have here! This section is all about lifestyle and these items are based on bismuth and other elements extracted from the minerals ilmenite and monazite.

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Bismuth is a critical raw material that is used in both electronics and cosmetics. It usually grows in metallic lumps, but when crystals are grown in the laboratory, they form beautiful, cubic or angular crystals with a multicoloured shine or iridescence. Bismuth has the rare quality of expanding when it solidifies (like water does when it turns to ice) and it has very low toxicity. It is often used in cosmetics as a pigment because of its iridescence and it’s a component of the heartburn treatment Pepto-Bismol.

Ilmenite is an ore of the critical element titanium. Once the titanium is extracted from ilmenite, it is usually turned into titanium dioxide, which is a very common white pigment. It’s used in paint, fabrics, plastics, paper, food and cosmetics, as well as sunscreen. It works well as a sunscreen because it doesn’t absorb into the skin and the bright white pigment reflects ultraviolet (UV) rays.

Monazite is an ore of cerium and other rare earth elements (REEs). Monazite often contains traces of thorium or uranium, making it radioactive. Once cerium is extracted, it is used in low-energy lightbulbs, TVs and floodlights. When exposed to UV light, cerium glows green, which is why it’s used inside low-energy lightbulbs. They work by creating UV light on the inside of the bulb, which reacts with the coatings of cerium and other elements that glow different colours. Mixed together, we see these different colours of light as white! It is also used in the form of cerium sulphide as a red pigment that doesn’t fade in light and is much less toxic than red pigments made from cadmium.

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