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DOE Funding Research to Secure  Rare Earth Elements for Domestic Supply Chain

DOE Funding Research to Secure Rare Earth Elements for Domestic Supply Chain

March 22, 2021
“America is in a race against economic competitors like China to own the EV market—and the supply chains for critical materials like lithium and cobalt will determine whether we win or lose,” said Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced on March 18  it will invest up to $30 million to support scientific research that will ensure American businesses can reliably tap into a domestic supply of critical elements and minerals, such as lithium, cobalt and nickel, needed to produce clean energy technologies.

“America is in a race against economic competitors like China to own the EV market—and the supply chains for critical materials like lithium and cobalt will determine whether we win or lose,” said Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm in a statement

“If we want to achieve a 100% carbon-free economy by 2050, we have to create our own supply of these materials, including alternatives here at home in America. And we must scale up new American industries that will create millions of good-paying union jobs to do it,” Granholm added.

Roughly 35 rare-earth elements, such as platinum, serve as key components to several clean-energy and high-tech applications—magnets in wind turbines, batteries in electric and conventional vehicles, phosphors in energy-efficient lighting and displays, and catalysts for mitigating greenhouse gas emissions.

At present, the U.S. relies on imports from nations such as China and the Democratic Republic of Congo for these critical materials. Imports account for 100% of our supply of 14 of the 35 elements, and over 50% of 17 others. This leaves clean energy technology production at greater risk of disruption due to trade disputes, natural disasters, or armed conflicts.

“We should not be solely reliant on imports from a handful of countries, some of which have questionable mining practices, for critical minerals and rare earth elements that are crucial inputs in countless devices and technologies Americans use every day, including many clean energy technologies," said Senator Joe Manchin, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources in s a statement.

DOE’s $30 million investment will bolster existing efforts to increase the availability of critical materials supported by several Department offices, including Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Fossil Energy, and the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy. Specifically, the money will fund research into the fundamental properties of rare-earth and platinum-group elements and the basic chemistry, materials sciences, and geosciences needed to discover substitutes.

National laboratories, universities, industry, and nonprofit organizations may apply for the three-year awards, to be selected based on peer review. The Office of Basic Energy Sciences (BES), within the Department’s Office of Science, will manage the investment, granting awards both for single investigators and larger teams. Up to $10 million of the $30 million in planned funding is contingent on congressional appropriations. 

The Funding Opportunity Announcement can be found on the BES funding opportunities page.

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