I seem always to start my letter with the weather here in New York. So, why break with a tradition?
You’d hardly think it’s May it’s so chilly. But then, on the basis of how it’s been since I last wrote, you’d really have no idea what season (or month) it is. Just the other week it was well over 80°F on the Tuesday and just above freezing on the Thursday. I fear this is how it’s going to be going forward.
This uncertainty about the weather mirrors somewhat the currently uncertainty about what many of President Trump’s policies actually are. I think that this is perhaps no more apparent than when it comes to trade agreements. NAFTA: Stay in? Pull out? Revise? Who really knows? However, following fierce lobbying from lawmakers and business leaders, it appears that pulling out of NAFTA anyway is, now, off the cards – for the time being.
And, while TPP certainly looks dead, if Wilbur Ross, the U.S. Commerce Secretary, is to be believed, TTIP does not appear to be. But, when any negotiations with the EU might be resumed remains an unanswered question. What with Brexit negotiations coming up and German elections, it’s unlikely to be any time soon.
Back at the end of March, I touched briefly on Dodd-Frank and conflict minerals. On April 7, as had been anticipated, the SEC’s Division of Corporation Finance issued an Updated Statement on the Conflict Minerals Rule. On the same day, SEC Acting Chairman Piwowar published a separate Statement.1
According to law firm Ropes & Gray: “The Statements will have little impact on the calendar year 2016 traceability process at most registrants. In most cases, that process has been completed or is close to completion.” 2 And: “For most registrants, the most immediate considerations will be how much to say in the calendar year 2016 Form SD, and whether to include a separate Conflict Minerals Report exhibit.”3
Going forward, however, the fate of the rule remains very uncertain. If the reaction of Kara Stein, the other SEC Commissioner and a Democrat, is anything to go by, any changes to the rule will be fought over fiercely. According to Ms Stein, Mr Piwowar’s overreach “unilaterally” undermined a rule “mandated by the Congress, adopted by the commission, and reviewed by the courts.”4 We shall see.
As always, I try to pass on to members anything interesting I find on the scientific discovery front involving minor metals. Here are two advances that I found particularly interesting.
Over in the West, at Arizona State University, gallium, my old favorite, is back in the news, perhaps not so surprisingly in the field of solar cell technology. According to a research paper published by electrical engineering Assistant Professor Yuji Zhao, gallium nitride has exhibited great potential as a material with which to create “a high-performance solar cell capable of operating under extremely high temperatures.”5 Professor Zhao has no doubts about gallium nitride performing. He’s interested in “how efficiently they [panels] will perform.”6
At the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, researchers have been doing some fascinating stuff with the semiconducting material chromium germanium telluride (Cr2Ge2Te6, or CGT).7 According to a Science Daily article describing the research: “The scientists found that a 2-D van der Waals crystal, part of a class of material whose atomically thin layers can be peeled off one by one with adhesive tape, possessed an intrinsic ferromagnetism.”8 This could have major implications in such areas as nanoscale memory, spintronic devices, and magnetic sensors.
For those members whom may have forgotten: “Van der Waals forces, named after a Dutch scientist, refers to intermolecular forces of attraction that do not arise from the typical covalent or ionic bonds that keep molecules intact. These quantum forces are used by geckos as they effortlessly scamper along walls and ceilings.
“Van der Waals crystals describe materials in which the 2-D layers are not connected to each other via traditional bonds, allowing them to be easily exfoliated with tape. Research on graphene, the most well-known van der Waals material, earned the Nobel Prize in physics in 2010.”9
What’s also really exciting and was noted by the researchers is that “…a striking feature of van der Waals crystals is that they can be easily combined with dissimilar materials without restrictions based on structural or chemical compatibility.”
Pretty “cool, eh?!”
With an exhortation to read the article I quote from (reference below), I remain, with best wishes from New York
Yours, as always
Tom Butcher , May 7th, 2017
©2017 Tom Butcher
Tom Butcher is an Associate Director at Van Eck Associates Corporation (“VanEck”). The views and opinions expressed herein are the personal views of Tom Butcher are not presented by or associated with VanEck or its affiliated entities.
1Ropes & Gray: SEC Issues Updated Statement on Conflict Minerals Rule (April 10, 2017), https://www.ropesgray.com/newsroom/alerts/2017/04/SEC-Issues-Updated-Statement-on-Conflict-Minerals-Rule.aspx
4The Wall Street Journal: Companies Get More Leeway on SEC ‘Conflict Minerals’ Rule, (April 10, 2017), https://www.wsj.com/articles/companies-get-more-leeway-on-sec-conflict-minerals-rule-1491605276
5Energy Harvesting Journal: Improving next-gen materials for solar cells (May 2, 2017), http://www.energyharvestingjournal.com/articles/10955/improving-next-gen-materials-for-solar-cells
7Science Daily: New atomically layered, thin magnet discovered (April 26, 2017), https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/04/170426131026.htm