US Department Of Energy Shifts Focus To Rare Earths

US Department of Energy Shifts Focus to Rare Earths

The US Department of Energy (DOE) will allocate up to $120 million for the creation of a rare earths research facility aimed at decreasing the country's dependence on rare earth elements (REEs) from China.

The new research center will be called the Critical Materials Institute (CMI) and will bring together leading researchers from academia, the private sector and four DOE national laboratories.

The new hub will focus on developing technologies that will enable the US to make better use of materials it has access to as well as on eliminating the need for materials that are subject to supply disruptions, according to a DOE  press release. To do so, the CMI will "leverage ... existing research programs into a larger, coordinated effort designed to eliminate materials criticality as an impediment to the commercialization of clean energy technologies."

The center will also address challenges across the entire lifecycle of REE materials, from enabling new sources to improving the economics of existing sources to accelerating material development and deployment.

The move is partially a response to findings reported in the DOE's December 2011  Critical Materials Strategy document, which notes that supply challenges for five rare earth metals (dysprosium, terbium, europium, neodymium and yttrium) are likely to affect clean energy technology deployment in the coming years.

Japan to launch REE seabed survey

Japan confirmed that it will launch a survey of its Pacific seabed in the hope of finding rare earth deposits large enough to supply its high-tech industries and reduce its dependence on China, according to a report from The Japan Times.

Researchers from the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology are scheduled to begin the probe later this month near Minamitorishima Island, which is located approximately 2,000 kilometres southeast of Tokyo.