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American Elements

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American Elements
Company typePrivate
IndustryMaterials science and advanced materials
FounderMichael Silver
HeadquartersLos Angeles, California, United States
Area served
ProductsChemicals and metals

American Elements is a global manufacturer and distributor of advanced materials with an over 35,000-page[1] online product catalog and compendium of information on the chemical elements, advanced materials, and high technology applications. The company's headquarters and educational programs are based in Los Angeles, California. Its research and production facilities are located in Salt Lake City, Utah; Monterrey, Mexico;China; and Manchester, US.34


American Elements began as a toll chemical manufacturer and refiner serving U.S. mining companies by producing metal-based chemicals from their deposits. In 1998, its two largest customers, the Unocal/Molycorp rare-earth mine in Mountain Pass, California, and the Rhodia rare-earth refinery in Freeport, Texas closed, ending domestic U.S. rare-earth production.[2] In response, the company established mining joint ventures in Inner Mongolia, China and in 1999 became one of the first post-Cold War companies to export rare-earth metals from China to the U.S. and Europe.[3]

Over the following decade the company expanded operations to include production of all elements on the periodic table and established educational programs, scholarships and scientific conferences to educate the public on the properties and applications of the elements. In 2001, it launched its website, which is a compendium of information on the elements and advanced materials including properties, uses, safety data, and academic research.

That same year, the company established its research and development department, of which the stated goal was to develop new materials and cost effective processes in order to scale their production to bulk quantities. Materials with application promise that could not be effectively scaled were abandoned in favor of materials and technologies that had the benefit of being producible at costs in line with their commercial application.[4] Many of the technologies and materials developed at American Elements were co-designed and co-developed with technology collaborators. The company develops and commercializes technology materials in partnership with the U.S. military and 30 percent of the Fortune 50 list of companies.[1]

On November 12, 2020, the company announced its expansion into the life sciences industry with a new manufacturing group devoted to life science and organic chemistry products.[5]


The company has made several new discoveries in materials science. These include:

  • Gadolinium nitrate made with heavy water (Gd(NO3)3 · 2H2O) for use as a neutron "gainer" during nuclear reactor maintenance
  • A rare-earth compound used as a dry-film lubricant at extremely high temperatures and pressures
  • A nanoscale that quickly dissolves powder used in orally disintegrating pharmaceuticals
  • A neodymium oxide-based additive to reduce yellow-green wavelength emission in incandescent light bulbs
  • Zinc oxide nanoparticles incorporated as an antimicrobial agent in textiles[6]
  • A high-purity form of ytterbium(III) fluoride for use as a radiopaque material in dental composites
  • A nanoscale electrolyte material in next-generation lithium-sulfur batteries.
  • Iridium parts for the jewelry industry, most notably pure iridium rings and wedding bands.[7] The company established Smithson Tennant,[8] a new wholly owned subsidiary, in November 2016 to make and market its iridium jewelry production.

Product lines[edit]

The advanced materials manufactured by the company include:

Educational programs[edit]

In 2006, the company established the not-for-profit American Elements Academics & Periodicals Department. This department provides information on (1) the ways elemental advanced materials are used,[10] (2) global issues affecting the mining and production of the elements[11][12] and (3) ways to improve the teaching of science at all grade levels.[3] Since its founding, the department has sponsored thousands of conferences on materials science, the elements, mining, and physics.[13] In 2011, it co-sponsored, along with the National Science Foundation, a four-part PBS Nova television series on materials science called "Making Stuff".[14] The department promotes improved transparency in global metal markets.[15] It believes future global rare-earth prices tend to move upward or downward in reaction to China's then-projected GDP (gross domestic product).[16][17] The company publishes an annual Endangered Elements List naming that year's top five elements that, due to their geopolitical scarcity, pose a threat to the future of American high-technology manufacturing.[18][19]


Michael Silver is the founder and CEO of American Elements. He is considered an expert in the fields of rare earths,[20] particularly in the political and economic issues surrounding the global supply chain, and writes and speaks frequently on the subject.[21][22][23][24] Silver coined the phrases "Innovation Distortion",[25] a description of efforts to avoid the use of a given element solely because of concerns that it may be hoarded by nations with resource control of that material, and the "Environmentalist's Catch-22" to describe the dilemma faced by those who both support a green technology future reliant on solar energy, wind power, electric cars and fuel cells and concurrently oppose the mining of the critical metals from which these technologies are manufactured.[26]

Silver is also an active philanthropist in the science and arts. In 2011, he funded and hosted a delegation from the UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles, California to the Inner Mongolian Medical Teaching College in Baotou, China which has led to student and teacher exchanges and the development of a joint AIDS program. He is a trustee of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County and a member of the Board of Directors of the Institute of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles and the Sarara Initiative in Northern Kenya and the council of the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles. He also serves on the council for the Getty Villa in Malibu and has underwritten artists in residence at the UCLA Hammer Museum. He has made in-kind donations of artwork to the National Museum of African American History & Culture in Washington, DC.[27]


  1. ^ a b "American Elements: About the Company". American Elements. Retrieved 2016-12-20.
  2. ^ "USGS Minerals Yearbook—1999" (PDF). U.S. Geological Survey. Retrieved July 27, 2018.
  3. ^ a b "Optical Society of America, 2012 Executive Series". Osa.org. June 27, 2012. Retrieved 2014-08-04.
  4. ^ ""How Minerals Will Impact Global Geopolitics in the 21st Century" American Elements CEO addresses the New York Mineralogical Club, Oct 9, 2013". American Elements. Retrieved 2016-12-20.
  5. ^ "American Elements Launches Life Science Manufacturing Group". Yahoo Finance. November 12, 2020. Retrieved November 24, 2020.
  6. ^ Karkare, Manasi (2010-09-30). Nanotechnology: Fundamentals and Applications. I. K. International Pvt. p. 16. ISBN 9788189866990.
  7. ^ "Diamond World, American Elements introduces new Iridium metal to jewellery manufacturing". Diamondworld.net. October 3, 2009. Retrieved 2014-08-04.
  8. ^ "Iridium Rings | AMERICAN ELEMENTS". americanelements.com. Retrieved 2016-11-03.
  9. ^ "American Elements Announces New Fusion Energy Division". Yahoo Finance. 6 February 2023.
  10. ^ "The RealSide". Archived from the original on October 3, 2012. Retrieved November 15, 2012.
  11. ^ "Mining News: China moves to gain high-tech dominance". Petroleumnews.com. 2011-10-30. Retrieved 2014-08-04.
  12. ^ "REUTERS, WRAPUP 4-US, EU, Japan take on China at WTO over rare earths". Reuters.com. March 13, 2012. Retrieved 2014-08-04.
  13. ^ "AE Press Releases". americanelements.com. Retrieved 2014-08-04.
  14. ^ "NOVA: Making Stuff". PBS. Retrieved July 27, 2018.
  15. ^ "NTDTV, Business Delegates Lambast China's Rare Earth Mineral Restrictions". YouTube.com. 2011-09-16. Retrieved 2014-08-04.
  16. ^ Onstad, Eric (2012-09-19). "Analysis: Rare earth prices to erode on fresh supply, China". Reuters.com. Retrieved 2014-08-04.
  17. ^ Chris Cann (2014-02-28). "Time for Change" (PDF). Mining Journal. Retrieved 2014-08-04.
  18. ^ "Industry input on critical minerals – the Endangered Elements List". Americanresources.org. 2012-12-10. Retrieved 2014-08-04.
  19. ^ "5 Endangered Elements That America Needs". Huffington Post. November 19, 2012.
  20. ^ "The Rare Earth Elements in Your Smartphone, Interview with Corey Johnson". Bloomberg TV. 2014-08-08.
  21. ^ "Rare Earth Junior Miners Should Applaud China". Community.nasdaq.com. 2012-05-22. Retrieved 2018-03-21.
  22. ^ Mark Landler and James Risen (2017-07-25). "Trump Finds Reason for the U.S. to Remain in Afghanistan: Minerals". New York Times. Retrieved 2018-06-15.
  23. ^ "American Elements CEO to Trump: Stop North Korea's radioactive black market". Fox News. June 13, 2018.
  24. ^ Silver, Michael (August 30, 2017). "Help Afghans Exploit Their Mineral Riches". Wall Street Journal.
  25. ^ "Critical materials issues cut both ways". Mining Journal. 2014-03-28. Retrieved 2018-03-21.
  26. ^ Silver, Michael (October 8, 2014). "The Environmentalist's Catch-22". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2018-07-27.
  27. ^ "ICA LA Announces Inaugural Gala Bruncheon Honoring Carrie Mae Weems, A Capital Campaign Milestone and Three New Board Members". ICA LA. Archived from the original on 2017-08-20. Retrieved 2014-02-08.

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