Sunday, January 13, 2013

Critical Minerals Institute focus includes rare earth elements

The U.S. Department of Energy announced that a team led by Ames Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, has been selected for an award of up to $120 million over five years to establish an Energy Innovation Hub that will develop solutions to the domestic shortages of rare earth metals and other materials critical for U.S. energy security [right, use of rare earths in new cars.  Credit, Molycorp]. The new research center, which will be named the Critical Materials Institute (CMI), will bring together researchers from academia, four Department of Energy national laboratories, and the private sector.

On Tuesday, January 15, the Department of Energy will hold a Google+ Hangout with leaders of the Critical Materials Institute to discuss this important research effort, which can be viewed on DOE's livestream Web page.

 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.

 CMI plans to organize its efforts in four mutually supporting focus areas:

    Diversify Supply - enable new sources of critical materials that are not now commercially viable, improve the economics of processing existing sources, and identify new uses for co-products and by-products that do not currently contribute to the economics of materials production.

    Develop Substitutes - design and deploy replacement materials that have lower or zero critical materials content, and develop a knowledge-based approach to accelerate advanced material development and deployment.

    Improve Reuse and Recycling - both reduce demand and increase supply by developing economically viable technologies for efficient material use in manufacturing, recycling, and reuse.

    Conduct Crosscutting Research - develop theoretical, computational, and experimental tools necessary to support the basic science needs of the other focus areas; develop and apply strategies to assess and address environmental sustainability and the life cycle of new CMI developed materials and processes; and evaluate the social and economic viability of the CMI developed science and engineering solutions.

[taken from the DOE and CMI announcements and materials]

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