U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu has announced plans to invest up to $120 million over five years to launch a new Energy Innovation Hub, establishing a multidisciplinary and sustained effort to identify problems and develop solutions across the lifecycle of critical materials.
The Hub, funded by up to $20 million in Fiscal Year 2012, will work to advance U.S. leadership in energy manufacturing – such as electric vehicles, wind turbines, efficient lighting and others – through research aimed both at having a reliable supply of these rare earths and other critical materials, as well as finding efficiencies and alternatives that reduce the amount we actually need.
Rare earth elements and other critical materials have unique chemical and physical characteristics, including magnetic, catalytic and luminescent properties, which are important for a growing number of energy technologies. These critical materials are also at risk for supply disruptions.
We must ensure America’s entrepreneurs and manufacturers continue to have access to these critical materials so we can compete in the global energy economy,” says Chu. “As America has done throughout our history to meet a great national challenge, we will pull together a group of talented, creative scientists, engineers and innovators to find the solutions we need for America’s energy security. Our success will be crucial to ensuring we can continue producing the advanced energy technologies that will power our economy long into the future.”
The goal of the Critical Materials Hub will be to reduce U.S. dependence on critical materials and ensure that the deployment of domestic energy technologies is not hindered by future materials supply shortages. The Hub will address challenges across the entire life of each critical material including mineral processing, manufacture, substitution, efficient use, and end-of-life recycling.