DOE awards $20M for research on rare earth elements

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced $20 million for basic research aimed at ensuring a stable U.S. supply of rare earth elements, which are critical for a wide range of technologies and essential to the energy, economic, and national security of the United States. The research will focus on improving the efficiency of both the use of the elements and their extraction from geological and recycled sources.

“Rare earth elements play an indispensable role in materials needed for today’s advanced technologies and are essential to a functioning American economy,” said Dr. Chris Fall, Director of DOE’s Office of Science. “This fundamental research is aimed at both improving current availability and supply of these elements and finding promising alternative materials.”

The research will focus on improving the efficiency of both the use of the elements and their extraction from geological and recycled sources. It will also seek to reduce the reliance on rare earth elements by discovering substitute materials with similar or even enhanced properties.

The effort is closely aligned with the “Federal Strategy to Ensure Secure and Reliable Supplies of Critical Minerals” issued by the Department of Commerce in 2019, which calls on the nation to “advance transformational research, development, and deployment across the critical mineral supply chain.”

The research will be led by five DOE national laboratory teams, chosen by competitive peer review under the DOE Laboratory Announcement, “Materials and Chemical Science Research on Critical Materials,” sponsored by the Office of Basic Energy Science (BES) within DOE’s Office of Science. Teams include researchers from both DOE laboratories and universities.

Total planned funding for the five awards will be $20 million over three years, with up to $6.7 million in Fiscal Year 2020 dollars and outyear funding contingent on Congressional appropriations.

Principal Investigator Title Lead Institution
Hla, Saw Wai Design, Synthesis, and Atomic Scale Characterization of Rare- Earth Based Supramolecular Nanographene and Nanoribbons Argonne National Laboratory
Abergel, Rebecca The Rare-Earth Project: Harnessing Differences in Electronic Structure for Multiscale, Multicomponent Separations Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Goff, George Exploiting the Emergent Behavior in Ionic Liquids for Advanced Rare Earth Separations Los Alamos National Laboratory
Jansone-Popova, Santa Transforming Critical Materials Separation using Precision Control Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Ferguson, Andrew Tailoring Photophysical Energy Transfer for Selective Separations of Critical Lanthanides National Renewable Energy Laboratory
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