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Critical Materials Technology Workshop

Critical Materials Technology
Monday, December 6, 2010

ARPA-E hosted an event in its series of public workshops – “ARPA-E Critical Materials Technology Workshop,” which took place on December 6, 2010, in Arlington, VA. The goal of the workshop was to bring together thought leaders from across scientific and engineering disciplines to identify potential transformational, early-stage applied research and development approaches to address technical challenges related to potential limited availability of critical materials in the energy sector.  

The importance of critical materials in the energy sector has been highlighted by the mismatch between the rapidly growing demands relative to limited global supply of rare earth materials. Technology solutions focused on both the supply-side and demand-side of critical materials challenges are of interest.  Specifically, ARPA-E was interested in exploring potentially disruptive (not incremental) technology solutions.  

The workshop brought together experts from industry, academia, and government with diverse perspectives to discuss the following challenges: 

  • Novel technologies for extraction, processing, and/or recycling of rare earth materials with the potential to significantly lower the costs, increase the availability and reduce the environmental impact of  supply;
  • New materials, components, or systems that dramatically reduce or eliminate the rare earth content of permanent magnets for energy applications, specifically in electric motor and electric generator devices;
  • Innovative technologies that could dramatically reduce or eliminate the rare earth content in phosphors for light emitting diode (LED) and compact florescent (CFL) lighting solutions; and
  • Novel processes or materials that dramatically reduce or eliminate the use of rare earth materials in catalysis and separator technologies in applications ranging across solid oxide fuel cells (SOFC), fluid catalytic cracking (FCC), and post-combustion emissions control devices.

Proceedings from the meeting are summarized below. 

SPEAKERS AND PRESENTATIONS:

1. Dr. Arun Majumdar, ARPA-E Director
Welcome (pdf)
2. Dr. Mark Johnson, ARPA-E Program Director
3. Ms. Diana Bauer, Department of Energy – Policy and International 
4. Dr. Bill McCallum, Ames National Laboratory
5. Mr. Brock O’Kelly, MolyCorp
6. Dr. Steve Duclos, GE
7. Dr. Frederick Pinkerton, GM
 
BREAKOUT SESSIONS:

Overview Presentation (pdf)

During the workshop, participants broke into four sets of breakout sessions, comprising of: 

  • Supply: novel technologies for extraction, processing, and/or recycling of rare earth materials with the potential to significantly lower the costs, increase the availability and reduce the environmental impact of  supply;
  • Magnetics: new materials, components, or systems that dramatically reduce or eliminate the rare earth content of permanent magnets for energy applications, specifically in electric motor and electric generator devices;
  • Phosphors: innovative technologies that could dramatically reduce or eliminate the rare earth content in phosphors for light emitting diode (LED) and compact florescent (CFL) lighting solutions; and
  • Catalysts and Separators: novel processes or materials that dramatically reduce or eliminate the use of rare earth materials in catalysis and separator technologies in applications ranging across solid oxide fuel cells (SOFC), fluid catalytic cracking (FCC), and post-combustion emissions control devices.

Supply

Session Chair: Dr. Eric Toone, ARPA-E Deputy Director for Technology
  • Are there completely new process pathways which may be used, and subsequently scaled, for the processing of rare earths?
  • Can we leverage the knowledge base from the actinide materials processes realm to the lanthanide / rare-earth materials processes? 
  • Can geobacters with strong affinity for specific rare-earth elements be identified and developed in potentially industrially relevant processes?

Magnetics

Session Chair: Dr. David Danielson, ARPA-E Program Director
  • Are there other non-rare earth content magnets which may exhibit high coercivity, particularly as a potential hard-phase in nanoscale composites? 
  • What new magnets might exhibit high coercivity with low rare-earth content? 
  • What are the technical barriers to the use of superconducting magnets in large-scale applications?
  • What technology advances are required to use non-permanent magnet motors in transportation or heavy industrial applications? 

Phosphors

Session Chair: Dr. David Shum, ARPA-E Program Director
  • For LED or OLED sources of white light, are there high-efficiency optical transitions in non-rare-earth materials, including size and shape modifications?
  • Can new phosphors be developed which only use rare earths materials in dopant quantities (less than 0.1%)? 
  • For downshifted LED or OLED emitters, what are the technology gaps for achieving efficient, high color rendering index white emission?
  • What are the technology gaps to maintain consistent color and intensity for cost effective, multiple wavelength LEDs?

Catalysts and Separators

Session Chair: Dr. David Danielson, ARPA-E Program Director
 
Catalysts
  • Are there alternatives, e.g. mesoporouszeolites, to the high use of rare-earths in fluid catalytic cracking? 
  • What are the limits in controlling size and shape to dramatically increase performance?
  • What are the ultimate limits and by what quantitative amount could the process be improved while reducing rare-earth content? 
  • In high diffusivity oxygen separators, are there potential technologies not containing critical materials with the combination of oxygen permeability and mechanical integrity at high temperatures? 
  • Can the unique structures of grapheneor nanotubes be developed into new catalyst technologies? 

Separators

  • In high diffusivity oxygen separators, are there potential technologies not containing critical materials with the combination of oxygen permeability and mechanical integrity at high temperatures? 
  • Can the unique structures of grapheneor nanotubes be developed into new catalyst technologies? 

OTHER MATERIAL:

U.S. Department of Energy Critical Materials Strategy - December 15, 2010

The strategy examines the role of rare earth metals and other materials in the clean energy economy, based on extensive research by the Department during the past year.  The report focuses on materials used in four technologies - wind turbines, electric vehicles, solar cells and energy-efficient lighting.