Washington State’s U.S. Representative Derek Kilmer has announced $1.35 million in new federal funding for the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL-Sequim) to evaluate the feasibility of extracting Rare Earth Elements (REEs) and Platinum Group Metals (PGMs) from macroalgae for use in energy applications.
REEs are essential for manufacturing high-efficiency electric motors and generators. PGMs play a pivotal role in technologies aimed at reducing carbon emissions, such as hydrogen production through water electrolysis, energy generation in fuel cells, and catalysts in industrial chemical processes.
“The pioneering efforts at PNNL-Sequim to extract critical minerals from macroalgae represent a significant leap forward in our quest for sustainable energy solutions and a carbon-neutral future,” said Rep. Kilmer.
The team from PNNL-Sequim is set to receive funding through the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) Critical Mineral Extraction from Ocean Macroalgal Biomass Exploratory Topic. ARPA-E Director Evelyn N. Wang affirmed that the team will explore the environmental, temporal, and ecological factors that influence the content of REEs and PGMs in macroalgae.
They will study methods to efficiently extract REEs and PGMs from hyper-accumulating species of marine macroalgae. Extraction methods will also re-utilize chemical extractants and retain the value of the algae for other purposes such as biofuels and other industrial feedstocks, resulting in minimal tailings.
New instrumentation capability at PNNL will allow for greater analysis of the biological variability of minerals and metals, and the team will develop — among other advancements — substances to extract metals using specialized molecules that bind to rare earths in solution.
More information and a complete project description for the team can be found on the ARPA-E website.
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