April 14-15, 2011
Critical Materials in Sustainable Energy Applications Workshop
This workshop brought together a key group of people for a facilitated discussion to answer the question "How should we focus research and development efforts to best mitigate the effects of material criticality on achieving a sustainable energy future?" The workshop included four half-day closed-door working sessions, with plenary/keynote talks that were open to the Caltech community.
Keynote Session Videos:
Opening Remarks by Dr. Harry A. Atwater, Director of the Resnick Sustainability Institute
Keynote: "What Makes a Material Critical for Sustainable Energy" presented by Jack Lifton of Tech Metals Research
"Critical Materials Strategy" presented by Diana Bauer of the U.S. Department of Energy
"Japanese Approach Toward Critical Materials" presented by Dr. Yasushi Watanabe of the Japanese Institute for Geo-resources and Environment
"Rare Earth Materials Strategy and Separation Industry in China" presented by Professor Chunhua Yan of Peking University's State Key Lab of Rare Earth Materials
Session 1: What makes a material critical for sustainable energy?
Session leaders: Zhenheng Chen and Jack Lifton
This session set the stage for the balance of the workshop. Starting from the background material in the suggested reading list, the group discussed the requirements and availability of these materials, and endeavored to answer the question: What, if any, are the truly critical materials for renewable energy, and how can we identify them?
Session 2: Supply-base improvement possibilities
Session leader: Chunhua Yan
This discussion focused on potential technological improvements in material extraction and processing, and the economic realities around their implementation. It honed in on the question, "How can we set an R&D agenda to mitigate the criticality of some of these elements?" The attendees worked to identify new techniques/processes that might shift materials off of the critical list.
Session 3: Research on substitute materials
Session leader: Mark Johnson
This session was devoted to creating an R&D agenda to engineer new materials that can be used in these applications that are not constrained. In some cases this will be a replacement of the critical material only, while others will require system level changes. The group will focused on a few key example materials, and use these case studies to create a framework for addressing this problem for any critical material.
Session 4: Mechanisms for reducing critical materials issues
Session leader: Rod Eggert
Based on the outputs of the previous sessions, this discussion revolved around how to implement potential solutions. It examined how national/international policy, economics and industry could be leveraged and evaluated the best way to structure an R&D budget on materials for new energy technology given the previous discussions.