TOKYO, April 11 (UPI) -- Japan's Hitachi Ltd. says it's developed an industrial motor without using rare earth metals to reduce dependence on imports of the scarce minerals from China.
China controls more than 90 percent of global supplies of rare earth metals and has moved to restrict production and exports.
Rare earths are a group of 17 chemical elements vital to the production of electronics, semiconductors and other high-tech devices.
The rare earth-free electric motor could be used for pumps and fans in industrial settings and uses more common amorphous metals -- non-crystalline metals that have high conductivity -- while achieving the same efficiency as motors using rare earth magnets that require such elements as neodymium and dysprosium , the company said Wednesday.
"The prices of rare earth metals have been soaring in recent years," Yuji Enomoto, a senior researcher at Hitachi, said in Tokyo. "We are facing the urgent need to not use rare earth metals."
Hitachi said the motors could be available commercially staring in April 2014, the Mainichi Shimbun reported.
The company said it plans to use the technology to develop motors for other uses such as automobiles and home appliances in the future.