I’ve often joked that performance of various things could be improved if only we could get better raw materials. In particular the element Unobtainium could revolutionize semiconductor design.
As it happens they call such materials “rare earth elements” for a reason. It turns out that there are quite a number of materials that are presently in short supply. EETimes has a nice overview of this here.
As the US starts to reconsider nuclear development such materials as hafnium and platinum may soon be in short supply. Both of these are used in reactor designs.
Of particular interest in a possible supply problem with Lithium. This at a time when just about every portable electonic device uses Li-Ion batteries, and the automotive industry is looking to this battery technology for hybrids and plug-in electrics.
Update: Here’s a link to some further details at priuschat.com obtained in a tweet from @ageekgal.