Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Critical Materials Institute (CMI) announced selections totaling up to $4 million for four research and development projects to partner with industry to address challenges in establishing domestic supply chains for critical materials.
“Critical materials are used in many products important to the American energy economy. Mitigating supply chain risks and developing new technologies to capture and recover materials will help develop secure and reliable supplies of critical minerals,” said Alex Fitzsimmons, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency. “DOE and the Critical Materials Institute are focused on developing innovative technologies, in partnership with industry, to reduce America’s dependence on foreign sources of critical minerals.”
Critical materials are used in many products important to the U.S. economy and national security. For example, rare earth elements are essential for the manufacturing of high strength magnets used in electric vehicle motors and offshore wind turbine generators. The United States lacks downstream domestic processing and manufacturing capabilities and investments in U.S. supply chain activities are critical to reducing the costs of the materials and environmental impacts of production.
The Trump Administration has made the security of our nation’s critical mineral supplies a top priority. Through efforts such as the Critical Materials Institute, DOE is leading the way in reducing our dependence on critical materials by developing processes by which critical materials may be better and more efficiently extracted and separated and developing technologies that:
- Expand domestic sources of critical materials
- Reduce the amount of the materials needed for battery production and high-performance magnets
- Recycle the critical materials already in use.
Selected project teams will focus on three areas: conversion of raw material feedstock into high value products (magnets), novel separations from end-of-life batteries, and unconventional domestic supplies of cobalt.
CMI selected the following projects for negotiations:
- Project Title: Semi Continuous Calciothermal Reduction and Production of Rare Earth Elements
Terves LLC, in collaboration with Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Ames Laboratory and Powdermet Inc., will adapt existing magnesium processing equipment to commercialize production and refinement of rare earth metals needed for magnet fabrication – addressing production and refinement of rare earth metals in the domestic magnet supply chain.
- Project Title: SO2 Leaching and Electrowinning for the Recovery of Cobalt, Lithium, and Manganese from Lithium-Ion Battery Cake
Garrison Minerals, in collaboration with Irish Metals, Big Blue Technologies, Retriev Technologies and Telex Metals, will explore a new way of separating metals from end-of-life batteries to reclaim battery critical materials for re-insertion into the battery manufacturing supply chain. If successful, this innovative approach would improve the economics of recycling lithium-ion batteries.
- Project Title: Improvements to Cobalt Beneficiation from Domestic Ore at the Iron Creek Deposit, Central Idaho
The Colorado School of Mines, in collaboration with First Cobalt, will couple new physical and chemical separation methods to remove unwanted materials and create a higher concentration of cobalt from mined ore in the Iron Creek Deposit in Central Idaho. This improved process could help reduce costs, energy consumption, and generated waste material.
- Project Title: Unlocking Missouri's Cobalt Potential
The Doe Run Resources Company, in collaboration with Missouri University of Science and Technology and OLI Systems, Inc., will develop a novel and economic process to remove materials from the mined ore and recover cobalt along with other valuable metals from Missouri resources. This new process could reduce U.S. dependence on foreign resources by 30%.
Founded in 2013, the Critical Materials Institute is a DOE Energy Innovation Hub led by Ames Laboratory that seeks to eliminate and reduce reliance on rare-earth metals and other materials subject to supply chain disruptions.
DOE recently announced $30 million in funding for research and development that focuses on field validation and demonstration, as well as next-generation extraction, separation, and processing technologies for critical materials.