Critical Materials Institute names four projects to support innovation in the nation’s critical materials supply chain

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AMES, IOWA—Today, 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 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.

CMI selected four proposals from its Open Innovation Project (OIP) call, which was announced in June. Slated to launch in the first quarter of 2021, these proposed projects will address challenges in establishing domestic supply chains for critical materials with specific emphasis on industrial relevance, participation, and adoption (link to DOE news release). The research efforts will expand CMI’s research portfolio to address unlocking domestic sources of cobalt, improve conversion of rare earth oxides to metal, and improve recovery of critical materials from Lithium-ion batteries. 

“The projects we selected pursue some of the most urgent domestic supply chain challenges U.S. manufacturing face in the pursuit of existing or new technologies,” said CMI Director Thomas Lograsso. “The Department of Energy has identified these areas as a high priority for research, and our teams of scientists will be tackling it on several fronts through these projects.”

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 percent.

The Critical Materials Institute is a Department of Energy Innovation Hub led by the U.S. Department of Energy's Ames Laboratory and supported by the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s Advanced Manufacturing Office, which supports early-stage applied research to advance innovation in U.S. manufacturing and promote American economic growth and energy security. CMI seeks ways to eliminate and reduce reliance on rare-earth metals and other materials critical to the success of clean energy technologies.

Ames Laboratory is a U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science national laboratory operated by Iowa State University. Ames Laboratory creates innovative materials, technologies and energy solutions. We use our expertise, unique capabilities and interdisciplinary collaborations to solve global problems.

DOE’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time.  For more information, please visit science.energy.gov.