Back to Top
Skip to main content
NETL To Lead Multi-National Lab Collaboration To Rapidly Advance Critical Minerals and Materials Technologies
National Energy Technology Laboratory researchers utilize sorbents to extract solubilized rare earth elements from aqueous solutions.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management has announced that a NETL-led project focused on accelerating and de-risking critical minerals and materials (CMMs) technology development and commercialization will receive $75 million to develop the Critical Materials Supply Chain Research Facility (METALLIC), bringing the expertise of nine national laboratories to bear on the nation’s critical materials challenges.

CMMs are essential for developing nearly all modern technologies, including those for clean energy and national defense. However, the United States imports nearly all its CMMs from foreign sources, creating vulnerabilities in the supply chain. Establishing a secure, sustainable domestic supply of critical minerals from a broad range of sources across the country is crucial to the nation’s security and prosperity.

The METALLIC team led by NETL will establish a nationwide, federated set of critical mineral and materials capabilities by leveraging the unique capabilities of Ames National Laboratory (Ames), Argonne National Laboratory (Argonne), Idaho National Laboratory (INL), Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL).

“This team represents the national laboratory system’s leading CMMs research capabilities,” said NETL’s Tom Tarka, who will serve as METALLIC director and lead principal investigator. “We intend to deliver the highest impact return on DOE’s investment by creating an innovative CMMs ecosystem to address supply chain issues.”  

The team intends to leverage fundamental capabilities of each lab, including CMMs process modeling and optimization (LBNL, NETL); artificial intelligence, machine learning and large language models for energy, materials and geoscience research (Ames, Argonne, LBNL, INL, NETL, ORNL, PNNL); life cycle analysis (Argonne, NETL, NREL, PNNL); data science and warehousing (NETL, PNNL); supply chain analysis and modeling (Argonne, NETL); and expertise in advanced CMMs alloys (LLNL), among other capabilities.

METALLIC will work to secure a domestic supply of CMMs by:

  • Accelerating deployment of novel processing technology. The developmental timeline of novel technologies will be shortened by providing facilities for diverse techniques and materials to be prototyped, tested and validated at multiple scales and in a variety of process configurations.
  • Designing new materials to support extraction from low-concentration sources. The team’s experience developing and validating materials for CMM extraction from sources down to parts-per-trillion concentrations will be leveraged.
  • Minimizing waste generation through process design. Low-environmental-impact approaches in CMMs manufacturing will be designed, CMMs intensity will be reduced, extraction efficiency will be improved, and the processing tolerance of mixed and recycled feedstocks will be increased.
  • Reducing CMM usage through advanced alloy development and manufacturing. In situ metrology will be used to characterize alloy properties as they are processed under far-from equilibrium conditions common in advanced manufacturing.
  • De-risking adoption of new technology by demonstrating success at various scales. Two technology readiness level groupings will be targeted in each supply chain area to de-risk adoption. Lower maturity research will validate aspects of technology performance, generate materials for testing in other centers, and determine readiness for further maturation. Higher maturity research will be designed to validate technologies in a more integrated context at scales relevant to industry.
  • Rapidly advancing technology from the bench to deployment for commercialization. Configurable testbeds will be deployed for validation and generation of relevant data at multiple scales and reducing scale-up time, uncertainty and risk to accelerate commercialization.
  • Supporting the establishment of domestic CMMs supply chains. The team will validate technology performance, perform testing in the context of other unit operations, and perform testing of processing technologies at scales relevant to industry to produce materials in volumes and sizes suitable for end-use technologies.

METALLIC will also support DOE’s Critical Materials Collaborative (CMC) activities across supply chain segments by unifying physical, computational and data capabilities into four centers: Feedstock Beneficiation, Extractions and Separations, Refining, and Alloy Development and Advanced Manufacturing. The team will implement targeted capability expansion for member labs and interface with CMC to create a nationwide resource led by NETL.

In addition to NETL’s broad intra- and extramural CMMs research, the Lab has a wealth of experience in leading large-scale, multi-laboratory and mutli-institution efforts such as the Institute for Design of Advanced Energy Systems; the eXtreme environment MATerials consortium; Subsurface Hydrogen Assessment, Storage and Technology Acceleration; the Process Optimization and Modeling for Minerals Sustainability initiative and more. The Lab has also more recently taken on a leadership role in the Critical Minerals Institute.

“NETL is also the only national laboratory that is both owned and operated by the U.S. government, which allows its researchers to apply the full weight of the government, irrespective of profit motivations, to build technology that will create an industry that does not yet exist in this country,” Tarka said. “Our efforts will lead to the technology that can spin off and seed the CMMs ecosystem, connecting the resources and manufacturers in this country and ensuring that each step in the supply chain is built here.”

NETL is a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory that drives innovation and delivers technological solutions for an environmentally sustainable and prosperous energy future. By using its world-class talent and research facilities, NETL is ensuring affordable, abundant and reliable energy that drives a robust economy and national security, while developing technologies to manage carbon across the full life cycle, enabling environmental sustainability for all Americans.