Solicitation on Topics Informing New Program Areas (TINA) Biotechnologies to Ensure a Robust Supply of Critical Materials for Clean Energy
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Biotechnologies to Ensure a Robust Supply of Critical Materials for Clean Energy
With global competition for minerals in emerging tech, defense, and energy applications, any shortage of critical resources “constitutes a strategic vulnerability for the security and prosperity of the United States.” The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) has recently issued a list of such materials, which include: 1) Rare Earth Elements (REEs) consisting of the Lanthanide series (La-Lu) as well as yttrium and scandium; 2) The Platinum Group Metals (PGMs); and 3) Select 3) Select members of the CM list as follows: cobalt, fluorspar (CaF2), manganese, niobium and tin. In addition to the CMs identified by DOI, other base transition metals of interest for this ARPA-E program are Nickel (Ni) and Copper (Cu). In 2018, the global Ni demand for Li-ion batteries was 85,000 tons and this is expected to increase by 30-40% per year. The U.S. nickel production represents less than 1% (19,000 tons) of the total global production. While the U.S. is the third largest global copper producer - with 1.2 million tons produced in 2018 - just behind Chile and Peru, the unique thermal and electrical properties of this metal make it a crucial element for energy efficiency applications. The issues around this material are production costs due to declining domestic ore grades and the associated energy along with environmental concerns around Cu extraction and processing. Bio-based mining technologies offer potential advantages of lower energy requirements and production of less amounts of hazardous by-products, making them a potentially promising option for domestic CM, Ni, and Cu production. However, these techniques remain largely unproven, especially at scale.