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Warning: Global shortage of laptop and cell phone materials on the horizon

Technology device ownership continues to soar, with smartphones, tablets, and laptop computers now showing a strong presence in a majority of American households. But the materials used to manufacture these popular consumer electronics aren’t quite as plentiful anymore, experts warn, which could eventually lead to device shortages in the very near future.

Supplies of critical technology minerals like gold, silver, platinum, and palladium, for instance, are in short order these days, and researchers from the University of Delaware (UoD) say that more needs to be done to address this problem. Even copper, a base metal used in not only personal electronic devices but also cars and homes, is not nearly as plentiful as it once was, posing a threat to various major industries.

The international research team from UoD looked at data and demand forecasts on the sustainability of global mineral supplies, and the situation appears dire. Not only are mineral supplies dwindling, but the companies that mine them are leaving behind a toxic and destructive legacy, which is having disastrous environmental effects.

Their study, which was recently published in the journal Nature, reveals that mining exploration efforts simply aren’t keeping up with growing demand for things like the latest flashy mobile phones or stylish tablet computers, both classes of electronic devices that require special mineral substances in order to respond to users’ fingers on their touchscreens, for instance. The paper also reveals that manufacturers are failing to properly recycle materials, which is making the problem even worse.

“There are treaties on climate change, biodiversity, migratory species and even waste management of organic chemicals, but there is no international mechanism to govern how mineral supply should be coordinated,” says Saleem Ali, lead author of the study.


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