WASHINGTON, June 2, 2016 - The Department of Energy will provide $4 million in funding for four research and development projects to assess the occurrence of rare-earth minerals and other critical materials that play a vital role in many clean energy technologies, including solar panels, wind turbines and electric vehicles.

DOE says that by validating methods for recovering and purifying critical materials the economic and production benefits of geothermal energy projects can be improved, making them more cost-competitive at a wider range of locations.

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The selected projects will research breakthrough approaches for extracting these materials and quantifying their resource potential, DOE says. The plan represents an opportunity to help meet America's need for domestic critical materials while strengthening the economic viability of geothermal energy operations.

Here’s a look at the selected projects: 

  • Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California will use bioengineered microbes in the design and operation of a rare-earth enrichment and separation process to efficiently deliver high-purity products from geothermal fluids.

  • Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richmond, Washington, will demonstrate a magnetic nanofluid approach to recover rare-earth minerals and other high-value materials from geothermal fluids.

  • University of Utah will perform a resource assessment of the western U.S. to identify high-value materials in geothermal fluids and other fluids produced from energy projects.

  • University of Wyoming will assess rare-earth element concentrations in waters produced by geothermal and oil and gas projects.


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