With the facts about rare earth metals coming to light and the controversy surrounding them growing, the immediacy for alternatives is becoming clear. While the media has begun to uncover the devastation caused by the mining, processing, and disposal of these materials around the world, a few organizations have risen to offer solutions to the daunting problems surrounding Rare Earth Metals. Though they are far from the medias spotlight, they may hold the key to solving the issues of our dependency on exhaustible resources.
CRM_InnoNet, or Critical Raw Material Innovation Network is a project in the EU dedicated to finding and organizing efforts for sustainable alternatives to rare earth materials around the world. With the impending scarcity of resources that many of our technologies depend on, including the aerospace, automotive and machinery industries, finding suitable alternatives is an inevitable investment. CRM_Innonet is the European Commission’s attempt to do just that. CRM objectives are to map the rare metal substitutions projects around the world, develop a criteria for the assessment of those projects, and create “Roadmaps” for companies to follow in order to move away from dependency on exhaustible materials and into to a place of alternative solutions. This combined with their network of organizations looking for alternative solutions will allow CRM to begin creating policy recommendations for any company or industry attempting to contribute to the solution of Critical Raw Materials by reducing their dependency on those materials.
CRM is modeled after CMI, or the Critical Materials Institute, the U.S. Department of Energy’s approach to creative solutions to our dependency on rare earth materials. Ames Laboratory is a national laboratory of the DOE and leads the CMI, which brings together the top researchers and developers in the field with the most cutting edge equipment available. CMI is an Energy Innovation Hub that coordinates over 250 researchers across 18 institutions involved in the alternatives to rare earth materials. With a budget of 120 million dollars from the DOE the CMI is leading the way for a technological reform around the world, void of rare earth materials. In only their second year as an organization they have already accomplished a great deal, including hosting the Trilateral Critical Materials Working Group, which is a collaborative efforts between the EU, The US and Japan to reduce the global dependency on rare earth metals.
Many of other projects exist, like ARPA.E’s REACT, or Rare Earth Alternatives in Critical technologies, which focuses on alternatives to specific issues like the need for magnetic equipment that powers electric vehicles and wind turbines. Or RETA, the Rare Earth Technology Alliance that acts as liaison’s to wide range of companies from General Electric to ReNew Erath Metals, streaming information and data from producers and manufactures to post consumer recyclers insuring the highest efficiency in the life span of rare earth materials. With organizations around the world working to find solutions to our dependency on rare earth metals, it’s only a matter of time before human innovation and collaborative efforts leads to world of technological advances void of the high cost of materials and resources we depend on today.
Next Week; The Future in Rare Earth Metals