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DOE’s CMI expands research in lithium, cobalt as rapid growth in electric vehicles drives demand

As increasing interest in electric vehicles drives the demand for supplies of lithium and cobalt for batteries, the US Department of Energy (DOE) Critical Materials Institute (earlier post) will begin new efforts this July to maximize the efficient processing, use, and recycling of those elements.

We are trying to anticipate possible short-term supply issues through specifically targeted research and industry partnerships.

—CMI Director Alex King

The lithium and cobalt research is part of a larger effort totaling 36 separate projects for the US Department of Energy’s Innovation Hub, which originally launched in 2013 to pursue reducing, recycling and substituting rare-earth metals in many technologies.

While rare-earth metals will remain an area of expertise, 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.

These 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. All of them will be in greater demand as new battery, solar cell, and fuel cell technologies emerge in the near future.

—CMI Deputy Director Rod Eggert

The Critical Materials Institute is a Department of Energy Innovation Hub led by the US Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory and supported by DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s Advanced Manufacturing Office. CMI seeks ways to eliminate and reduce reliance on rare-earth metals and other materials critical to the success of clean energy technologies.

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