The Critical Materials Institute (CMI), a Department of Energy research hub under the auspices of Ames Laboratory, is expanding its research on tech metals “as rapid growth in electric vehicles drives demand for lithium, cobalt.”
According to a recent Ames Lab press release, the Institute will focus on maximizing the efficiency of processing, usage and recycling of Lithium and Cobalt starting this summer.
Says CMI Director Alex King:
“The global tech economy is heating up, and we’re likely to see high demand for a growing number of materials. We are trying to anticipate possible short-term supply issues through specifically targeted research and industry partnerships.”
Since the research hub’s launch in 2013, it has engaged in 36 separate collaborative projects, most of which were initially focused on REEs. CMI points out that while REEs will remain a key focal area, there is good reason to look beyond:
“Other key manufacturing material supplies are in need of the Hub’s fast-moving collaborative approach. Research from National Laboratories and academic institutions is combined with engineering know-how from manufacturers, economic analyses, and assistance from AI and machine learning to rapidly find solutions to domestic shortages of manufacturing materials.
The list of materials under CMI’s scrutiny has expanded to include not only lithium and cobalt, but also manganese, vanadium, gallium, indium, tellurium, platinum group metals, and graphite.”
The advances of material science, which will yield new battery, solar cell and fuel cell technologies, will continue to drive demand for these materials. CMI Deputy Director Rod Eggert points to associated possible supply challenges, and specifically the Co-Product challenge ARPN has recently outlined in a new report. Says Eggert:
“These [materials] present possible supply challenges for a number of reasons. Some of them are produced in small quantity as by-products of other mining processes; some are subject to unstable geopolitical conditions.”
In its research efforts, CMI relies on collaboration with academia as well as the private sector – an approach that has already yielded some great breakthroughs, several of which we have featured in our “Materials Science Profiles of Progress” series on the ARPN blog.
To learn more about the above-referenced Co-Product challenge, read ARPN’s most recent report entitled “Through the Gateway. A Look at how Gateway Metals and their Co-Products Underpin Modern Technology”