Mark Udall congratulated the Colorado School of Mines today on receiving part of a $120 million U.S. Department of Energy award to create a research hub dedicated to addressing the shortage of rare earth and other critical materials used in clean energy and defense technologies. The research center, which Udall led a letter of support for in August 2012, would advance energy innovation by addressing four issue areas: developing substitutes for these scarce materials, diversifying supply sources at risk of disruptions, improving reuse and recycling, and researching solutions to strengthen our energy security.
"Rare earths and critical materials play an increasingly important role for American businesses in technologies ranging from basic electronics to wind turbines to advanced aircraft and satellites. This award is exciting because it will allow us to leverage the intellectual power of the Colorado School of Mines and a series of institutions across America to address one of the key supply-chain challenges in our country: access to rare earth and critical materials," said Udall, a member of both the Armed Services and Energy and Natural Resources committees. "The solutions this research hub explores will have long-term consequences for some of our most promising, job-creating industries in the clean energy and defense industries."
The team, led by Ames Laboratory in Iowa and including the School of Mines, will receive up to $120 million over five years to create the Critical Materials Institute (CMI), a new research center that develops solutions to the domestic shortages of rare earth metals and other materials critical for U.S. energy and national security. It will be the fifth Energy Innovation Hub established by the Energy Department since 2010.
"Colorado School of Mines will have a team of more than 25 faculty members, researchers and students working as part of the CMI team. Mines' role will focus on process engineering, recycling, materials design, economic analysis and educational activities--in collaboration with local, regional and national industry partners," said Rod Eggert, a professor at Colorado School of Mines who will be the deputy director at CMI. "The CMI will enhance Colorado's standing as a center of activity and excellence in these areas."
"This hub will play a critical role in the nation's energy agenda and the Colorado School of Mines, with its stellar history in this arena, is looking forward to playing a key role," said John Poate, Colorado School of Mines Vice President of Research and Technology Transfer.
Udall has been a longtime advocate of restoring the country's leadership in the critical minerals and materials industry. Two years ago, Udall introduced the Critical Minerals and Materials Act of 2011 to help develop a domestic supply chain of critical minerals and materials, including rare-earth materials, and to support an expert workforce to mine and process the minerals. Udall also called out China last year when it imposed artificial barriers on its exports of rare earth elements. He also fought to include a provision in the 2013 NDAA to encourage the Defense Department to carefully consider the role of U.S. producers in supporting the development of rare earths materials that are critical for defense weapons systems and other important national priorities.
CMI, headquartered at Ames Laboratory, will partner with academic and research partners including the Colorado School of Mines, Brown University, Purdue University, Rutgers University, University of California-Davis, Iowa State University, and Florida Industrial and Phosphate Research Institute, as well the Idaho National Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. According to the DOE, industry partners include General Electric; OLI Systems, Inc.; SpinTek Filtration, Inc.; Advanced Recovery; Cytec, Inc.; Molycorp, Inc.; and Simbol Materials.