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DOE investing $120M over 5 years in Energy Innovation Hub for Critical Materials Research

The US Department of Energy (DOE) will invest $120 million over five years to launch a new Energy Innovation Hub, establishing a multidisciplinary and sustained effort to identify problems and develop solutions across the lifecycle of critical materials such as rare earth elements (REE) (DE-FOA-0000687)

The Critical Materials Hub builds on the Department’s Critical Materials Strategy report (earlier post), which addresses the use of rare earths and other critical materials in clean energy components, products, and processes. The goal of the Critical Materials Hub will be to reduce US dependence on these critical materials and ensure that the deployment of domestic energy technologies is not hindered by future materials supply shortages.

The Hub will address challenges across the entire life of each critical material including mineral processing, manufacture, substitution, efficient use, and end-of-life recycling.

REE and other critical materials have unique chemical and physical characteristics, including magnetic, catalytic, and luminescent properties that are important for a growing number of energy technologies. These critical materials are also at risk for supply disruptions.

The Hub, funded by up to $20 million in Fiscal Year 2012, will work to advance US leadership in energy manufacturing—such as electric vehicles, wind turbines, efficient lighting, and others—through research aimed both at having a reliable supply of these rare earths and other critical materials, as well as finding efficiencies and alternatives that reduce the amount needed.

We must ensure America’s entrepreneurs and manufacturers continue to have access to these critical materials so we can compete in the global energy economy. As America has done throughout our history to meet a great national challenge, we will pull together a group of talented, creative scientists, engineers, and innovators to find the solutions we need for America’s energy security. Our success will be crucial to ensuring we can continue producing the advanced energy technologies that will power our economy long into the future.

—Energy Secretary Steven Chu

First established in 2010, the Hubs are major integrated research centers, with researchers from many different institutions and technical backgrounds. They are modeled after the strong scientific management characteristics of the Manhattan Project, Lincoln Lab at MIT that developed radar, AT&T Bell Laboratories that developed the transistor and, more recently, the highly successful Bioenergy Research Centers established during the Bush Administration to pioneer advanced techniques in biotechnology, including biofuels.

The new Critical Materials Hub’s research and development is intended to advance innovation at all stages of critical materials science and technology. Universities, national laboratories, nonprofit organizations, and private firms are eligible to compete and are encouraged to form partnerships when submitting their proposals. The award selection is expected this fall.

This will be the fifth Energy Innovation Hub established by DOE since 2010. The other Energy Innovation Hubs are:

  • The Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis, which focuses on advanced research to produce fuels directly from sunlight.

  • The Consortium for Advanced Simulation of Light Water Reactors, which is seeking to improve nuclear reactors through sophisticated computer-based modeling and simulation.

  • The Greater Philadelphia Innovation Cluster for Energy-Efficient Buildings, which is working to achieve major breakthroughs in energy efficient building design.

  • A Batteries and Energy Storage Innovation Hub was also announced earlier this year. The deadline for submitting competitive proposals was this week.


Henry Gibson

There are massive deposits of thorium in the US which will also contain rare earth metals used in magnets. One of them is near Lemhi pass right where Lewis and Clark first looked over the continental divide from the future Montana into the future Idaho and met up with the brother of their native guide.

Since the cheaper more reliable and robust and efficient switched reluctance motors and generators with their electronic drives are well understood, they should be used in preference to the heat sensitive permanent magnet machines. Silicon drives are now used for both types and for induction motors, including the injected copper rotor motors of AC Propulsion.

After started up with a mix of used light water fuel and thorium, CANDU heavy water reactors can operate forever with only additions of thorium. Only one pound of Thorium is needed for heat equivalent to three million pounds of coal.

As it is, the US nuclear industry is required to waste over 99 percent of its possible fuel energy from uranium; so talk about efficient nuclear power plants in the US is a fraud and a waste of materials to build high pressure turbines, boilers and other equipment with expensive materials and construction. ..HG..


"They are modeled after the strong scientific management characteristics of the Manhattan Project, Lincoln Lab at MIT that developed radar, AT&T Bell Laboratories that developed the transistor." These labs were very successful, but that was at a time when individuals were less selfish, and the very wealthy didn't control all of the politicians. Even though it's admirable to try and recapture some of the great innovation momentum the US used to have, I think it may be too late to actually accomplish it.

Innovation takes critical thinking and creativity. Not a real strength for a cowed populace.

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