Economically Recovering Rare Earth Materials


TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Air Platform, Ground/Sea Vehicles, Materials/Processes, Weapons

OBJECTIVE: The Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) seeks to provide responsive, best value supplies consistently to our customers. DLA continually investigates diverse technologies for manufacturing which would lead to the highest level of innovation in the discrete-parts support of fielded weapon systems (many of which were designed in the 1960’s, 1970’s and 1980’s) with a future impact on both commercial technology and government applications. As such, advanced technology demonstrations for affordability and advanced industrial practices to demonstrate the combination of improved discrete-parts manufacturing and improved business methods are of interest. All these areas of manufacturing technologies provide potential avenues toward achieving breakthrough advances. Proposed efforts funded under this topic may encompass any specific discrete-parts or materials manufacturing or processing technology at any level resulting in a unit cost reduction. Research and Development efforts selected under this topic shall demonstrate and involve a degree of risk where the technical feasibility of the proposed work has not been fully established. Further, proposed efforts must be judged to be at a Technology Readiness Level of less than 6 -- system/subsystem model or prototype demonstration in a relevant environment -- but greater than 3 -- analytical and experimental critical function and/or characteristic proof of concept -- to receive funding consideration.

DESCRIPTION: Many products contain rare earth elements, such as permanent magnets, cell phones, hearing aids, wind turbines, and catalytic converters. There is very limited domestic production of these rare earth materials and therefore a risk of foreign reliance. Developing an economically viable process for recovering rare earth materials from these items, or recycling the items themselves, could facilitate the establishment of a viable, competitive domestic supply chain. DLA R&D seeks to prove the viability of a recycling or reclamation process and facilitate commercialization of that process. R&D tasks include identifying sources of scrap and developing process for extracting and re-processing the rare earth metals from permanent magnets or motors.

PHASE I: Determine, insofar as possible, the scientific, technical and commercial feasibility of the idea. Include a plan to demonstrate the innovative discrete-parts manufacturing process and address implementation approaches for near term insertion into the manufacture of Department of Defense (DoD) systems, subsystems, components or parts.

PHASE II: Develop applicable and feasible process demonstration for the approach described, and demonstrate a degree of commercial viability. Validate the feasibility of the innovative process by demonstrating its use in the production, testing and integration of items for DLA. Validation would include, but not be limited to, prototype quantities, data analysis, laboratory tests, system simulations, operation in test-beds, or operation in a demonstration system. A partnership with a current or potential supplier to DLA, OEM, or other suitable partner is highly desirable. Identify commercial benefit or application opportunities of the innovation. Innovative processes should be developed with the intent to readily transition to production in support of DLA and its supply chains.

PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: Technology transition via successful demonstration of a new process technology. This demonstration should show near-term application to one or more Department of Defense systems, subsystems or components. This demonstration should also verify the potential for enhancement of quality, reliability, performance and/or reduction of unit cost or total ownership cost of the proposed subject.

Private Sector Commercial Potential: Material manufacturing improvements, including development of domestic manufacturing capabilities, have a direct applicability to all defense system technologies. Material manufacturing technologies, processes, and systems have wide applicability to the defense industry including air, ground, sea, and weapons technologies. Competitive material manufacturing improvements should have leverage into private sector industries as well as civilian sector relevance. Many of the technologies under this topic would be directly applicable to other DoD agencies, NASA, and any commercial manufacturing venue. Advanced technologies for material manufacturing would directly improve production in the commercial sector resulting in reduced cost and improved productivity.




    • 2015 Strategic and Critical Materials Report on Stockpile Requirements


  • National Defense Authorization Act For Fiscal Year 2014

KEYWORDS: Lanthanum, cerium, praseodymium, neodymium, promethium, samarium, europium, gadolinium, terbium, dysprosium, holmium, erbium, thulium, ytterbium, lutetium, scandium, oxide reduction, permanent magnets, catalysts, wind turbines, motor, recycling, reclamation, domestic, supply chain.

  • TPOC-1: Brian Gabriel
  • Phone: 703-767-0868
  • Email:
  • TPOC-2: Matt Hutchens
  • Phone: 703-767-2502
  • Email:

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