It's not just a mining issue. China leads in processing and purifying the minerals, but the United States lags in that industrial sector.
Researchers are looking for alternative technologies that could offer safer, greener solutions.
A potential lack of government funding could help other countries pull ahead.
But it's just a matter of time before the problem is solved, a UC Berkeley engineer says.
A lesson in the perils of the race to thinner, more energy-packed devices.