Molybdenum Just Keeps Getting Better and Better

by: George Maniere

As if anyone needed a reason to be more bullish on General Moly (NYSEMKT:GMO), Thomson Creek (TC) and Molycorp (MCP), here it is. As we know, MCP is the only supplier of molybdenum in the U.S. but soon GMO and TC will be filling the void. While China supplies 97% of the world's Rare Earth Elements, it is a net importer of molybdenum. Molybdenum is an alloying element that will maintain the structural stability of stainless steel when placed under pressures reaching as high as 300,000 lbs/sq. in.; it makes stainless steel impervious to corrosion as well as very high degrees of temperature. These qualities make stainless steel viable for oil rigs, pumps, valves, coolers, manifolds, separators, nuclear reactors, storage tanks for products such as flour, palm oil, wine, white liquor, potable and sewage water, ethanol, fruit juice and biodiesel and even Japanese chef knives.

This, however, is just the beginning. This stuff just keeps getting better. On Sunday June 6 I was reading about molybdenum and I found out that moly could be the key to the future of clean energy reliance. Researchers at the University of California-Berkeley have been working on a more efficient way to produce hydrogen gas from fresh and salt water. Hydrogen gas, essential to renewable energy prospects, is not available in nature because it has to be separated from oxygen molecules in water. Until now the process was expensive because of the prohibitive cost of platinum as an essential catalyst in the process.

However, a new proton reduction catalyst is based on a molybdenum-oxo metal complex and is about 70 times cheaper than platinum. One of the main benefits from this new technology is the ability to derive hydrogen gas from salt water, the most available source of hydrogen on Earth. However, the new developments for molybdenum as the catalyst include a new use in thin film solar panels, increasing the economic viability of solar panels.

Molybdenum is being used in new CIGS (copper indium gallium selenide) solar panels that are revolutionizing the solar industry. All of these ores are rare earth elements. These CIGS solar panels are expected to be substantially less expensive than traditional solar cells due to their much lower material and potentially lower fabrication costs. A thin layer of molybdenum is used as the effective electrode base upon which the aforementioned elements are deposited.

The use of molybdenum in various nano-technologies was covered on Moly Investing News in February. The nano-technology that employs molybdenum in high-tech products could make computers smaller, faster and more efficient. There are even inventions where molybdenum nanotech could capture lost heat energy in gas- and coal-fired power plants which lose 50-70 percent of the energy produced in the form of heat.

Molybdenum can be used as a nutritional supplement. It is involved in the body's production of enzymes which are involved in breaking down carbohydrates, the nervous system and the production of red blood cells. It is taken in a tablet form. Additionally, molybdenum is available in most green vegetables, cereals and chicken. Naturally, it is recommended that it is taken under the supervision of a licensed doctor. Of course the best way to get the proper amount of molybdenum in your diet is by eating foods that are rich in molybdenum. There are many foods that contain high amounts of molybdenum. The best foods are the legumes, which include such things as peas, lentils, and beans.

What is important to remember about molybdenum is that it originates in the soil, so the amount of molybdenum in food is determined largely not by type but where it is grown. Interestingly, there is a tiny region in northern China called Linxian which has very low-quality soil that is lacking in a number of essential minerals, including molybdenum. The poor quality of the soil means that many mineral dietary needs are not met, and the people living there suffer from a number of mineral deficiencies, including molybdenum deficiency. The symptoms of molybdenum deficiency in this small region of China are mainly cancer-related. People living in the Linxian region experience a rate of stomach cancer and esophagus cancer which is a shocking 100 times higher than it is in the United States. A five-year study was conducted to see if molybdenum supplements could correct the high cancer rate, but there wasn't any significant change. Researchers believe, however, that natural molybdenum from food sources might be more effective in helping the people of Linxian and all those with molybdenum deficiency. There are also several rare genetic conditions which can create a molybdenum deficiency, in which case the health benefits of molybdenum supplementation are vitally important.

Disclosure: I am long GMO.