The Critical Materials Institute focuses on technologies that make better use of materials and eliminate the need for materials that are subject to supply disruptions.
These critical materials are essential for American competitiveness in clean energy. Many materials deemed critical by the U.S. Department of Energy are used in modern clean energy technologies, including wind turbines, solar panels, electric vehicles, and energy-efficient lighting. The Department’s 2011 Critical Materials Strategy reported that supply challenges for five rare earth metals may affect clean energy technology deployment in the coming years.
During its first five years, the Critical Materials Institute focused on these "critical" rare earths and "near-critical" materials: dysprosium, terbium, europium, neodymium and yttrium, as well as lithium and tellurium. Beginning in July 2019, CMI focuses on rare earth materials, battery materials (lithium, cobalt, manganese, graphite), indium and gallium.
Ames Laboratory leads the CMI team, which includes partners from other national laboratories, universities and industry. CMI research works in four ways:
- Diversifying Supply, led by Bruce Moyer, Oak Ridge National Laboratory
If one source becomes unavailable, we can rely on a different one.
- Expanding sources
- Transformative processes
- New uses for co-products
- Developing Substitutes, led by David Parker, Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Synthesize materials that meet needs, but use less critical resources.
- Magnets with reduced rare-earth content
- Reuse and Recycling, led by Carol Handwerker, Purdue University
Learn to use available materials more efficiently by reducing waste in manufacturing processes, and increasing the adoption of recycling.
- Energy storage systems
- Enabling and optimizing co-production
- Electric machines
- Crosscutting Research, led by Eric Schwegler, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
Develop new research tools and forecast what materials might become critical in the future.
- Enabling science
- Environmental sustainability
- Supply chain and economic analysis
CMI research results include developing unique facilities, creating new intellectual property, including invention disclosures, research publications and open source software. CMI invention disclosures have led to dozens of patent applications filed, with a dozen patents issued. CMI technologies are in use in industry, including through technology licenses.
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