Colorado School of Mines has entered a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Penn State University to establish a collaboration designed to be responsive in supporting the need for critical minerals in the U.S.
A total of 35 minerals or mineral material groups are currently considered critical to U.S. national security and the economy, many of which must be imported via at-risk supply chains. Found in most electronics today, these critical minerals include the rare earth elements, a set of 17 metals necessary for devices that people use every day – including rechargeable batteries, cell phones and magnets.
Through the MOU, the two universities will partner on research to support U.S. producers and consumers of critical mineral commodities and help advance the country’s manufacturing sector while developing a well-trained workforce to meet the demands for U.S.-sourced critical minerals.
“Mines’ focus on earth, energy, and environment already has us fully embedded in supply chain challenges and solutions,” said Stefanie Tompkins, vice president for research and technology transfer at Mines. “We’re excited by the opportunity to tackle some of these challenges with Penn State, and believe our combined east-west focus on everything from raw material extraction to regional industries will yield exciting new insights.”
With a leadership role in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Critical Materials Institute, Mines is already home to extensive work on mineral processing, extractive metallurgy and mineral economics. Research across campus addresses the full life cycle of Earth’s resources.
“In addition, Mines engages in techno-economic analysis, policy and regulations related to minerals,” said Sridhar Seetharaman, Associate Vice President for Research and Mines’ lead in the new partnership. “We are uniquely suited for developing solutions by leveraging our industrial centers in minerals and metals.”
The U.S. currently imports nearly 100 percent of its needed rare earth elements, with China producing about 85 percent of the world supply.
“Critical minerals, including rare earth elements, are vital feedstock for a huge range of applications, from energy conversion and storage devices to micro-electronics to defense applications,” Seetharaman said. “Currently, the U.S. depends on foreign sources, opening itself to supply chain vulnerabilities in our energy infrastructure, mission-critical defense applications and the competitiveness of the U.S. advanced manufacturing industry base.”
As part of the agreement the universities specifically will explore:
- Research opportunities
- Collaborative professional development
- Industrial partnerships with graduate and undergraduate internships
- Establishment of degree and/or certificate partnerships
- Collaborative courses, lectures, conferences, symposia
- Reciprocal exchange of students, faculty