On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Energy announced that an Energy Innovation Hub will be established at the Ames Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, for the purpose of developing solutions to the shortages of rare earth minerals and critical materials that the country needs for clean energy. Here are the details.
* Critical materials and rare earth elements are needed for clean energy technologies, including wind turbines, solar panels, electric vehicles and energy-efficient lighting, the Department of Energy stated. The Department reported in its 2011 Critical Materials Strategy that those technologies will be impacted in the coming years if the supply of five earth metals, including dysprosium, terbium, europium, neodymium and yttrium, is not increased.
* The Energy Department reported on Wednesday that a team led by Ames Laboratory will receive up to $120 million over five years to establish the hub, which will be a research center named the Critical Minerals Institute.
* According to the DOE, the Critical Minerals Institute will bring together academic researchers, four Department of Energy Laboratories and private companies.
* The focus of the research program at the Critical Materials Institute will be not only discovering how to make better use of the materials the U.S. has access to, but also to eliminate the need for materials subject to supply disruptions, the Energy Department reported.
* The Critical Materials Institute will be designed to address the challenges that face the entire life cycle of the materials, including the discovery of new sources, improved economics of existing sources, accelerating material development and deployment, recycling and reuse and strategies to assess and address the life cycles of the new resources.
* Ames Laboratory has been involved for quite some time in rare-earth research . In June 2011, the lab entered into a partnership with the Korean Institute of Industrial Technology to work on improving rare earth processing techniques, transferring rare earth discoveries to industrial applications and educating new rare earth scientists and engineers.
* In January 2011, Ames signed a cooperative research agreement with Molycorp Minerals, Inc.
* The Critical Materials Hub is one of five Energy Innovation Hubs developed by the Department of Energy. The others include the Modeling and Simulation for Nuclear Reactors Hub, the Fuels from Sunlight Hub, the Energy Efficient Buildings Hub, and the Batteries and Energy Storage Hub.
* The hubs have been being developed since 2010 for the purpose of creating am integrated research center that combines basic and applied research with engineering to accelerate scientific discovery in critical energy issue areas, the Department of Energy reported.