US Department of Energy launches rare earth metals research hub

January 16, 2013

The United States Department of Energy has launched an Energy Innovation Hub that will develop solutions to the country’s domestic shortages of rare earth metals and other materials critical for US energy security.

A team, led by The Ames Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, has been selected for an award of up to $120 million over five years. The new research centre, which will be named the Critical Materials Institute (CMI), will bring together leading researchers from academia, four Department of Energy national laboratories, as well as the private sector.

“Rare earth metals and other critical materials are essential to manufacturing wind turbines, electric vehicles, advanced batteries and a host of other products that are essential to America’s energy and national security. The Critical Materials Institute will bring together the best and brightest research minds from universities, national laboratories and the private sector to find innovative technology solutions that will help us avoid a supply shortage that would threaten our clean energy industry as well as our security interests,” stated David Danielson, Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

“The Ames Lab is the nation’s premier research centre for rare earth materials science and technology. In responding to DOE’s call for proposals, Ames assembled a team that offers broad capabilities covering the full spectrum of critical materials research and development, from mining to separations, alloy formulations, component and systems development, and materials recycling. This team will enable the United States to continue as a global leader in research and development in diverse technologies such as communications, control systems and advanced energy systems,” stated US Senator Tom Harkin.

These critical materials, including many rare earth elements, are essential for American competitiveness in the clean energy industry. Many materials deemed critical by the Department are used in modern clean energy technologies,  such as wind turbines, solar panels, electric vehicles, and energy-efficient lighting. The Department’s 2011 Critical Materials Strategy reported that supply challenges for five rare earth metals (dysprosium, terbium, europium, neodymium and yttrium) may affect clean energy technology deployment in the coming years. In recent years, DOE and others have scaled up work to address these challenges. Among the recent investments, DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy and Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy have supported more than $40 million in magnet, motor, and generator research.

CMI will leverage these existing research programs into a larger, coordinated effort designed to eliminate materials criticality as an impediment to the commercialisation of clean energy technologies. The Hub will address challenges across the entire life cycle of these materials. This ranges from enabling new sources; improving the economics of existing sources; accelerating material development and deployment; more efficient use in manufacturing; recycling and reuse; and developing strategies to assess and address the life cycles of new materials. Cross-cutting research, including developing computational tools and supply chain and economic analyses, will also be necessary to support the basic science needs across all challenge areas.

CMI, headquartered at The Ames Laboratory, will be directed by Alex King, also the director of the Ames Lab. The Hub will bring together some of the most advanced critical material research programs in the U.S. today. Other national labs partnering with Ames include Idaho National Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. University and research partners include Brown University, the Colorado School of Mines, Purdue University, Rutgers University, University of California-Davis, Iowa State University, and Florida Industrial and Phosphate Research Institute. Industry partners that have joined to help advance CMI developed technologies include General Electric; OLI Systems, Inc.; SpinTek Filtration, Inc.; Advanced Recovery; Cytec, Inc.; Molycorp, Inc.; and Simbol Materials.

www1.eere.energy.gov

 

Posted by: Paul Whittaker, Editor ipmd.net, [email protected]   

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