ImageAlex King

Director, Critical Materials
Institute

Professor, Department of
Materials Science and
Engineering, Iowa
State University

What’s the potential of the Critical Materials Institute?
There are many different answers to that question.  CMI will assure secure supply chains of materials that are essential for clean energy technologies, such as hybrid vehicles, wind turbines, efficient lighting systems, energy storage, etc.  It will also boost the supply of expertise in all of the technical areas required to secure those supply chains.  It will be an information resource for researchers, industry and policy makers.  And it will work to coordinate efforts with other federal programs on critical materials, both within and beyond the Department of Energy.  CMI has the potential, through all of these efforts, to ensure that the United States can be a leader in the manufacture of clean energy technologies.

How will the leadership team function?
CMI has an incredibly talented leadership team and some wonderful consultative bodies that have been working together for over two years, first setting out its agenda and then working together very intensely to prepare the proposal that led to the award of the funds for the Hub.  Since the selection, we have been joined in our work by several enthusiastic and motivated folks at DOE HQ, too.  My role is to ensure that these groups talk to each other, and listen to each other, too, so we make effective decisions about the use of the resources that we control.  I have to make sure that the research projects all stay on track, and I also get to be the spokesperson for the group on most occasions.  It’s challenging, but the directorship of the Ames Lab is probably as good a preparation as there might be for the job.  Even with all of those things going for us, we are still going to be making this up as we go along to some extent.  We’ll see just how flexible we can be.

ImageRod Eggert

Deputy Director, Critical Materials Institute

Professor and Division Director, Division of Economics and Business, Colorado School of Mines


What’s the potential of CMI?

CMI has the potential to accelerate scientific and technical innovation in the area of clean energy technologies. Without solving the challenges of critical materials, development might otherwise be stalled because of fears of the unavailability or price volatility for essential raw critical materials.

How will collaboration among the different areas and partners work?
The most important part of collaboration is communication. We will establish formal mechanisms for communication, as well as informal opportunities through which we hope communication will occur. In addition, crosscutting research on supply chain and economic analysis provides an opportunity for collaboration. This analysis, among other things, will provide the broader context in which to understand technical CMI research, allowing CMI researchers in one area (say, process engineering) to understand how work in another area (say, materials design) fits into a bigger picture.

ImageKarl Gschneidner Jr.

Chief Scientist, Critical Materials Institute

Scientist, Ames Laboratory, and Distinguished Professor, Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Iowa State University

What’s the potential of CMI?
The potential of CMI is enormous. Our nation has an immense challenge facing us in getting our rare-earth industry to be competitive with the Chinese and the rest of the world. Other problems we are facing are reducing our reliance on some of the most critical rare earths (for example, dysprosium, terbium and europium), by finding substitutes, or ways to decrease the amount of these elements in applications, such as reducing the amount of dysprosium used in high-strength neodymium-iron-boron magnets.

How will collaboration among the four focus groups help CMI reach its goals?
An interesting type of collaboration will exist between the CMI’s Crosscutting Research focus area and the other three focus areas, since most of the information obtained in the Crosscutting Research focus area will be fed into research being carried out in the Diversifying Supply, Developing Substations, and Improving Reuse and Recycling focus areas. Conversely, when information or experimental data are required, scientists in a given focus area will contact the appropriate scientists in the Crosscutting Research area to get the help and information needed.
In addition, collaboration with the scientists at universities or national labs and engineers in industry is critical, especially to keep research on track, because the CMI was funded to ensure that U.S. industry is competitive with the rest of the world and to overcome some of the problems and shortcomings that placed materials in such a critical state. And, of course, the cooperation, joint research, and collaboration with the academic and national laboratory partners will be vital to move CMI forward to reach its goals.

ImageBruce Moyer

Focus Area Leader in Diversifying Supply, Critical Materials Institute

Group Leader, Chemical Separations Group, Oak Ridge National Laboratory

What will the Diversifying Supply area do?
We’ll take a three-pronged approach: enabling the economical processing of new types of ores and minerals; increasing the efficiency of processing ores and conversion to pure materials for manufacturing; and finding new uses for more abundant metals that are co-mineralized with critical elements in ores.

What’s the potential of CMI?
CMI really addresses an ongoing problem faced over the ages by human engineering, namely maintaining stable supplies of materials even as demand constantly changes. So, beyond the really cool research we have planned for the next five years, the grander vision of promoting the sustainability of material life cycles will make being a part of CMI most rewarding.

ImageAdam Schwartz

Focus Area Leader in Developing Substitutes, Critical Materials Institute

Division Leader, Condensed Matter Physics, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

What will the Developing Substitutes focus area do?
The Developing Substitutes area will develop a substitute permanent magnet that exhibits properties similar to current magnets, but contains less rare-earth elements; create new phosphors that eliminate europium and terbium from fluorescent lamp phosphors; and construct a closely coupled theoretical and experimental framework that accelerates the invention and deployment of new substitute materials at a reduced cost.

What’s the potential of CMI?
The CMI has assembled an amazing team with all the qualifications to make great strides toward eliminating the criticality of materials. The rare earths are highest on our priority list at this time. I’m confident that, as a team, we can substantially improve the processing to obtain rare-earth elements more efficiently, reduce the usage of the rare earths through substitute materials, and improve our processes for material reuse and recycling.

ImageEric Peterson

Focus Area Leader in Improving Reuse and Recycling, Critical Materials Institute

Head, Process Science and Technology Business Line, Idaho National Laboratory

What will the Improving Reuse and Recycling area do?
We will develop efficient approaches to recycling and reuse of critical-element-containing materials that range from electronics and magnets to fluorescent light bulbs. The Improving Reuse and Recycling area initially will address developing efficient approaches to recovery and reuse of rare-earth elements contained in magnets, fluorescent light bulbs, and electronics utilizing novel methods that enhance current approaches to elemental recovery that include solvent extraction, electrochemistry, pyrometallurgy and repurposing of materials.

What’s the potential of CMI?

The CMI has huge potential to alter the direction of America’s efficient use of resources, beginning with the rare earths and broadening to other materials as their supply chains become stressed. I look forward to both being a part of and leading a component of CMI because of the tremendous intellectual and engineering challenges that it presents, coupled with the opportunity to work with some of America’s leading scientists and engineers.

ImageTom Lograsso

Focus Area Leader in Crosscutting Research, Critical Materials Institute

Interim Director, Ames Laboratory

What will the Crosscutting Research area tackle?
The Crosscutting Research focus area will concentrate on developing computational and experimental tools to assist projects in the other focus areas. These mechanisms will provide basic science tools for material discovery, design, synthesis and processing; methods to mitigate environmental concerns with new processing methods; and economic and supply chain analyses to ensure the solutions under development in the other focus areas are commercially and economically feasible.

What’s the potential of CMI?
CMI has the potential to significantly impact the ability of the nation to restore a domestic supply chain for critical materials. A domestic supply is fundamental to our national security, energy security and consumer products industry.