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The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) supports a proactive and comprehensive approach to address the challenges associated with the use of rare earth elements and other critical materials in energy technologies. In 2010, the Department developed its first-ever Critical Materials Strategy based on three strategic pillars: 1) diversifying global supply chains to mitigate supply risk; 2) developing material and technology substitutes; and 3) promoting recycling, reuse and more efficient use to significantly lower global demand for critical materials. In 2011, DOE updated its criticality assessments and provided in-depth market and technology analyses in response to important developments during the year.
Since 2011, DOE has continued to explore a variety of program and policy directions to address the challenges and opportunities across the critical materials supply chain. This includes establishing the Critical Materials Institute, taking a leadership role in interagency coordination, and forming international collaborations. DOE has also supported the development of sophisticated supply chain models, and in-depth analyses of the implications of energy sector supply chain dynamics, more broadly. This portfolio of work, coupled with significant changes in the supply and demand for raw materials in energy technologies, has prompted DOE to release an update to the Critical Materials Strategy in 2017.
To read about the supply chain modeling work, click here.
Critical Materials Institute
As one of DOE’s Energy Innovation Hubs, the Critical Materials Institute (CMI) addresses challenges in critical materials, including mineral processing, manufacturing, substitution, efficient use, and end-of-life recycling; integrates scientific research, engineering innovation, manufacturing and process improvements; and finds a holistic solution to the materials challenges facing the Nation.
Led by Ames National Laboratory and a team of research partners, CMI organizes its research in four mutually-supporting focus areas: 1) diversify supply; 2) develop substitutes; 3) improve reuse and recycling; and 4) conduct crosscutting research.
DOE is a co-chair of the Subcommittee on Critical and Strategic Mineral Supply Chains, which was established in December 2010 by the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) Committee on Environment, Natural Resources, and Sustainability (CENRS). The Subcommittee facilitates a strong, coordinated effort across federal agencies to identify and address important policy implications arising from strategic minerals supply issues.
In March 2016, the Subcommittee published a report that describes and applies a methodology for systematically screening a wide range of materials for signs of potential criticality. Using a combination of indicators of supply risk, production growth, and market dynamics, the tool flags materials that may warrant additional in-depth analysis in order to provide early warning of potential supply vulnerabilities.
The Subcommittee has also advanced transparency in trade patterns of key materials by adjusting trade codes for rare earth metals and compounds as well as for permanent magnets. These adjustments took effect in 2013 and 2014, respectively, and provide more granularity in the import and export of critical materials and critical materials-containing components by the United States.
DOE pursues opportunities for international discussion and collaboration on research topics of shared interest. Since 2010, the Department has convened multiple technical workshops on rare earth metals and other critical materials. More information on these workshops, including agendas and participant presentations, can be found below.
Annual Trilateral U.S. – EU – Japan Conference on Critical Materials for a Clean Energy Future
The conference convenes officials and experts from Japan, the European Union, the United States, and guests from other countries to discuss how best to ensure an adequate supply of critical materials for a clean energy future. In order to accelerate government-funded R&D activities in this area, policymakers and researchers come together to exchange information and collaborate effectively.
To download the agenda for the first conference (October 4-5, 2011), click here.
To download the agenda for the second conference (March 28-29, 2012), click here.
To download the agenda for the third conference (May 29-30, 2013), click here.
To download the agenda for the fourth conference (September 8-9, 2014), click here.
To download the agenda for the fifth conference (October 26, 2015), click here.
To download the agenda for the sixth conference (November 29, 2016), click here.
U.S. – Australia Joint Commission Steering Committee Meeting on Science and Technology, February 14, 2011
The Joint Commission Meeting strengthened the collaborative research relationship between Australia and the United States by establishing an overarching, strategic dialogue on science and technology. Rare earths and critical materials were addressed in one of the concurrent workshops, which brought together experts from both countries to examine the status of the current scientific and technological links and identify opportunities for possible future collaboration.
U.S. – Japan Roundtable on Rare Earth Elements Research and Development for Clean Energy Technologies, November 18-19, 2010
This bilateral workshop was held at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and featured R&D presentations covering the full supply chain for energy technologies using rare earth elements, including geological availability, recovery, separation, extraction, manufacturing, substitutes, and recycling.
Trans-Atlantic Workshop on Rare Earth Elements and Other Critical Materials for a Clean Energy Future, December 3, 2010
This meeting, held under the auspices of the U.S.-EU Energy Council and hosted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, focused on substitutes for and efficient use of critical materials.
ARPA-E Workshop on Rare Earth and Critical Materials, December 6, 2010
DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) convened scientists and engineers to address technical challenges in critical material use across a variety of energy applications.
To download the agenda, click here.
DOE will continue to pursue an integrated research plan that addresses critical materials challenges, in addition to collaborating with interagency and international partners. Accordingly, DOE welcomes comments on the Critical Materials Strategy and, in particular, any supplemental information that will enable the Department to refine its approach over time.
Comments and additional information can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.