The Elements of Innovation Discovered

US recycling tech gets boost in funding

Initiative advances critical mineral supply chain circularity Metal Tech News - May 24, 2023

The U.S. Department of Defense has developed the Materials Recovery Technologies for Defense Supply Resiliency initiative in support of President Biden's 2021 directive to identify and address risks in the supply chain for critical minerals.

The project is being run through Army Research Labs as a multi-year and multimillion-dollar international collaborative partnership between seven universities and five industry participants including Gopher Resource, the founding member of the consortium.

The collaborators have been tasked with finding new ways to reduce waste and more efficiently recover usable materials in national metals processing across multiple industries.

Gopher is a leading environmental solutions provider focused on battery and select household waste recycling with facilities in Florida and Minnesota.

This company prevents nearly 25 million automotive, industrial, and stationary batteries from going into landfills each year while ensuring their reuse into valuable, new consumer products.

"The issues of supply chain security and circularity had unanimous support from everyone we talked to when setting up this consortium," said Joseph Grogan, chief technology officer at Gopher Resource. "We're excited to partner with world-class research institutes on this important initiative to secure critical raw materials by developing advanced methods that minimize waste and promote sustainable practices."

Seven projects under the DoD initiative will be focused on vital areas of greenhouse gas reduction, materials recovery, and waste minimization in order to facilitate a more resilient and sustainable critical minerals domestic supply chain.

By investing in the next generation of metal recycling technologies and developing a robust U.S. recycling infrastructure for recovering critical minerals with improved environmental standards, the Pentagon aims to better control materials in high demand during the energy transition and to protect its national security.

Minerals like cobalt, gallium and rare earths are vital elements in electric vehicle batteries and green energy storage as well as having defense uses in superalloys, semiconductors, and permanent magnets.

To date, the consortium has received over $15 million out of a total of $25 million in proposed funding.

The first project utilizes recovered waste heat from the solar energy industry during the recycling process, making it more energy efficient. Contributors are working to quickly commercialize the technology for broader use.

For the second project, Gopher Resource is working with the University of Minnesota Natural Resource Research Institute and local partners to study charcoal production from biomass as a fossil fuel alternative – the goal being a sustainable supply chain that would markedly reduce carbon emissions and eventually scale up to allow other recyclers to similarly reduce their GHG impact.

Future projects will focus on advancing critical metals recovery and waste minimization, including finding new product uses for slag and recovering acid from batteries.

"When our work is complete, we expect that these technologies will be available to the commercial market and will play an important role in developing a low-carbon and diverse economy," said Dr. Grogan. "One that creates new jobs in recycling, metals recovery and manufacturing, and supports a robust and sustainable domestic supply chain."


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