The Critical Materials Institute
The Critical Materials Institute focuses on technologies that make better use of materials and eliminate the need for materials that are subject to supply disruptions.
These critical materials are essential for American competitiveness in clean energy. Many materials deemed critical by the U.S. Department of Energy are used in modern clean energy technologies, including wind turbines, solar panels, electric vehicles, and energy-efficient lighting. The Department’s 2011 Critical Materials Strategy reported that supply challenges for five rare earth metals may affect clean energy technology deployment in the coming years. The Critical Materials Institute focuses on these five "critical" rare earths and two "near-critical" materials: dysprosium, terbium, europium, neodymium and yttrium, as well as lithium and tellurium.
The Ames Laboratory leads the CMI team, which includes partners from other national laboratories, universities and industry. CMI Director Alex King summarizes the job of the Critical Materials Institute as helping the United States in four ways:
- Diversifying supplies. If one source goes offline, we can rely on a different source.
- Developing substitute materials that can meet needs without using the materials we use today.
- Using the available materials more efficiently: reducing waste in manufacturing processes, and increasing the adoption of recycling.
- Forecasting what materials might become critical in the future.
For a brief summary of the problem CMI is intended to solve and how CMI operates, see What CMI Does.