Priuses, wind turbines, and other clean technologies require rare earth materials, which generally go into ultra-strong magnets that help power clean technology. But rare earth elements have a couple of problems: China controls most of the supply, they require less-than-environmentally-friendly mining to get at, and, uh, they’re rare. So there's a race on to create a replacement magnet component that doesn't require rare earth.

CleanTechnica reports that a team at Boston's Northeastern University has taken one step in the right direction — developing a material with similar magnetic properties to rare earth. (Now there's just the small challenge of creating a battery that rivals the current technology in cost and incorporating it into commercial processes across the world.) To whatever degree the federal government is pouring (dribbling?) money into energy research these days, it's pouring money into this, because screw China. So we can expect discoveries like this one to start popping up fairly regularly.