DOE funds critical rare earth research
Seeks breakthroughs to increase REE supply, reduce need Metal Tech News Weekly Edition – April 22, 2020
Last updated 6/27/2020 at 5:51am
U.S. Department of Energy is funding up to $18 million for basic research aimed at helping to ensure the continued availability of rare earth elements, or effective substitutes, critical to the functioning of the modern U.S. economy.
Rare earth elements such as neodymium, praseodymium, lanthanum and others are vital to a host of contemporary technological and industrial applications, ranging from magnets in electric motors and wind turbines, to speaker and other components in smartphones and computers, to catalysts in the chemical industry.
"Our nation's economy continues to be bolstered by the research done at our national labs," said DOE Under Secretary for Science Paul Dabbar. "By supporting the acceleration of our knowledge of rare earth elements, we can look forward to breakthroughs within our scientific community. This will impact everyday items Americans use from critical materials from our own backyard."
The research will seek fundamental breakthroughs to enable improved methods to increase the availability or reduce the use of rare earth elements, more efficient separation approaches to enable reuse, and discovery of effective substitutes for rare earths, among other topics.
"Increasing the availability of critical materials and discovering alternatives for them is essential to America's energy security and will also open new avenues for commercial applications," said DOE Office of Science Director Chris Fall. "While we've seen real progress in this field, both basic and applied research are needed to secure the availability of the resources that are critical for today's technologies."
Planned funding totals $18 million for projects of three years in duration, with $6 million in fiscal year 2020 and subsequent funding contingent upon congressional appropriations.
DOE Office of Science is coordinating the funding opportunity with ongoing applied efforts in critical materials research sponsored across the department.
This new research funding is part of a DOE-wide effort totaling more than $158 million in FY 2020 that includes $23 million from the Office of Fossil Energy; $104 million from the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, which includes the Critical Materials Institute at Ames Laboratory; $11 million from Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) ; and an additional $14 million from Office of Science core research programs in materials sciences and chemistry.
DOE said this cross-cutting effort aims to promote research and development of the critical minerals and rare earth elements supply chain that is imperative to strengthening U.S. energy and national security.
"Critical minerals and rare earth elements are essential to technologies that we use every day from cell phones to lifesaving medical equipment to batteries for electric cars," said DOE Under Secretary of Energy Mark Menezes. "Unfortunately, the U.S. is heavily dependent on countries like China to supply these critical materials needed to manufacture products that support the U.S. economy. The research and development being done at DOE labs is critical to harnessing our domestic supply of rare earth elements and critical minerals and is key to developing new ways to process and recycle these elements."
Additional information on rare earth elements and United States efforts to spur domestic production of the technological metals can be read at The enigmatic rare earth elements paradox in the Feb. 12 edition of Metal Tech News.