The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has announced up to $30 million to support scientific research that will ensure American businesses can reliably tap into a domestic supply of critical elements and minerals, such as lithium, cobalt and nickel, needed to produce clean energy technologies. Currently, the U.S. is grappling with chronic shortages in the domestic supply of these critical materials, forcing the country to rely on imported materials.
Roughly 35 rare-earth elements, such as platinum, serve as key components to several clean-energy and high-tech applications—magnets in wind turbines, batteries in electric and conventional vehicles, phosphors in energy-efficient lighting and displays, and catalysts for mitigating greenhouse gas emissions. At present, the U.S. relies on imports from nations such as China and the Democratic Republic of Congo for these critical materials. Imports account for 100% of our supply of 14 of the 35 elements, and over 50% of 17 others. This leaves clean energy technology production at greater risk of disruption due to trade disputes, natural disasters, or armed conflicts.
DOE’s $30 million investment will bolster existing efforts to increase the availability of critical materials supported by several Department offices, including Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Fossil Energy, and the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy. Specifically, the money will fund research into the fundamental properties of rare-earth and platinum-group elements and the basic chemistry, materials sciences, and geosciences needed to discover substitutes.
National laboratories, universities, industry, and nonprofit organizations may apply for the three-year awards, to be selected based on peer review. The Office of Basic Energy Sciences (BES), within the Department’s Office of Science, will manage the investment, granting awards both for single investigators and larger teams. Up to $10 million of the $30 million in planned funding is contingent on congressional appropriations.
The Funding Opportunity Announcement can be found on the BES funding opportunities page.