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Material World

Material World

(Image: SEE Monster)

You need to read this – really you do. Despite (?!) being written by an economist it is accessible and engaging. What it does is equipe you for both the here and now and the future. Thinking of investment? My money (now) would be on sub-sea mining.

The book is divided into six different materials and subdivides into three chapters on each. Whilst there are the obvious ones – steel, copper, oil there are some surprises – sand and salt. Lastly there is lithium (though cobalt is a close seventh). The book then explores each of these materials in terms of its geological, political, economic and technological importance. This in many ways is about extraction, processing and purpose but it also gives emphasis to environmental impact and illustrates the interconnectedness of all things. Regardless of political schisms and global events some countries have greater concentrations of raw materials, others skills.

This is no better demonstrated of this than by the life cycle of a semi-conductor that begins in Spain and completes in Taiwan and Korea in sterile, fully automated plants that utilize innovative European technology. Chips are now being created with transistors etched at almost subatomic level a technology that has developed in accordance with Moore’s Law which dictates that transistor capacity doubles every two years. Whilst China is purported to dominate semi-conductor and battery technology at least in scale it on the one hand cannot manufacture to the highest quality while lithium and cobalt supply is concentrated in Latin America and the Congo. This might explain China’s interest in the third world and its military intentions with regard Taiwan. The same semi-conductor plants are said to be booby-trapped in lieu of this threat.

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