A company called Active Spectrum is marketing a benchtop ESR unit called the Micro-ESR that performs electron spin resonance measurements. The site says that the system operates at 3.4 and 9.6 GHz and has sub-micromolar sensitivity.  It’s pretty amazing, really.

I don’t know for a fact but the easy guess is that this ESR instrument and the picoSpin NMR spectrometer are based on some kind of rare earth magnet technology. Both instruments use very small cross section sample space, presumably to accomodate a design scheme to bring magnetic field lines together as closely as possible in the probe giving a useful field strength without a big electromagnet.

A quick patent search fails to turn up patents based on some obvious key words. I’ll have to spend some time looking more intently.

Now that I’ve got you hanging on to the rotating frame, lets tip you over with this.  China’s new policy of restricting rare earth element (REE) export as well as the recent announcement that it would be inposing fairly stiff tariffs means that wonders like these two magnet-based technologies are going to feel a pinch in raw material supply and competition real soon. The aggregate demand picture for REE’s will exceed supply by 2014 or so.  Market purists will nod knowingly and chant their homily on the rational allocation of goods by the market. 

But to what extent is China part of a rational market? China, Inc., really consists of a highly nationalized array of business fronts that are backed to the hilt by the Chinese government by internally favorable regulations on ownership and local sourcing. Don’t forget that Chinese currency is shielded from valuation excursions. 

To a large extent, China is leveraging technology developed in Japan and the west with metal resources highly concentrated within its borders to apply a pincer attack on the market place. China has industrial policy that it is steadfastly acting to strengthen its manufacturing base while the USA has an emphasis on aligning its citizens to be more receptive to consumption.

Wouldn’t it be nice to live in a country that tried harder to make its manufacturing industry more robust rather than the present fascination with finance and the well being of financiers?  Wouldn’t it be nice if westerners transferred a bit less of our magic to countries who will turn it into a stick to beat us over the head with? 

It is going to take a lot more than glib talk about the free market to deal with China and the growing influence of nationalized companies around the world.

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