The US Department of Energy has funded a $120m research center to address shortages in rare earth metals and other materials critical for US energy security.
Ames Laboratory in Iowa will lead a team of researchers at the new Critical Materials Institute (CMI).
“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,” said assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy David Danielson.
“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.
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 $40m in magnet, motor and generator research.
Other national labs partnering with Ames include Idaho National Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore National Laborator, 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, SpinTek Filtration, Advanced Recovery, Cytec, Molycorp and Simbol Materials.
Rare form: A neodymium-iron-boron magnet made using a new, one-step refining process develop that eliminates waste products (Ames Laboratory)