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DOE awards $30M for critical metals R&D

Projects to focus on alternatives, new sources, and recycling Metal Tech News - September 3, 2021

With renewable energy and electric vehicles driving enormous new demand, the United States Department of Energy is investing $30 million into 13 projects to develop new technologies that will help secure the supply of critical materials such as cobalt, platinum group metals, and rare earth elements needed to build clean energy technologies.

The selected national lab- and university-led research projects aim to diversify the supply of, develop substitutes for, and improve the reuse and recycling of these metals critical for clean energy and high-tech applications.

"Expanding electric vehicle infrastructure, hardening our nation's electrical grid, and powering our economy with millions of clean energy jobs all rely on securing supply chains of critical materials like cobalt and platinum," said Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm.

The U.S., however, depends on imports for 76% of the cobalt increasingly needed for lithium-ion batteries, 79% of the platinum used as catalysts to remove harmful emissions from fossil fuel burning technologies and to split hydrogen molecules into zero-carbon fuel cells, and more than 80% of the rare earths used in the powerful magnets that make wind energy and EVs more efficient.

DOE says the limited domestic supply of critical minerals and metals presents a significant risk to clean energy technology production.

The research being funded by the federal energy department will focus on understanding how rare earths and platinum metals give materials and molecules the unique properties that are valuable for modern technologies.

This research aims to identify new approaches to the atomic-level design of key materials and potentially reduce or even eliminate the need for these critical elements in clean energy and high-tech applications.

It will also widen the range of sources of these critical elements by potentially identifying new mineral sources or facilitating reuse and recycling of existing materials.

"This research is key to ensuring the United States has the clean energy and sustainable technology to power us through the 21st Century," said Rep. Marie Newman, D-Illinois.

The Argonne National Laboratory, located in the Chicago area and within Newman's district, received more than $2 million of the DOE grant funding.

"For more than 75 years, the scientists, engineers and researchers at Argonne National Laboratory have broken barriers, accomplished scientific milestones, and uncovered monumental discoveries in energy that have benefited our entire planet," Newman added.

The technologies developed at Argonne and other national labs and universities receiving the DOE grants are expected to impact battery and electrification projects and support the National Blueprint for Lithium Batteries' goal of ensuring the U.S. is a leader in battery technology research and development.

"The key to our carbon-free future lies in ramping up clean American industries, building strong supply chain systems of American-made critical materials, and aggressively deploying the resulting climate technologies here and abroad," Granholm said.

The DOE critical materials research projects funding will be awarded over three years, with the first $10 million being awarded this year.

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Shane Lasley, Metal Tech News

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With more than 15 years of covering mining, Shane is renowned for his insights and and in-depth analysis of mining, mineral exploration and technology metals.

 

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