ARPA-E: $5 Million to Explore Macroalgae Mineral Extraction
mineral extraction macroalgae

ARPA-E is looking to fund exploration into critical rare earth mineral extraction from ocean macroalgae. Credit: Kirk Wester

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has announced up to $5M in funding to evaluate the feasibility of rare earth and mineral extraction as well as other high-value trace critical minerals from macroalgae.

“Seaweeds accumulate trace metals in such an efficient way that this process is sometimes used to clean up polluted harbors. It would be transformative if we could harness that capability to harvest the critical rare earths we need for a net-zero economy in a low-impact way using this natural ability,” said ARPA-E Director Evelyn N. Wang.

The funding is part of the new Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) Critical Mineral Extraction from Ocean Macroalgal Biomass Exploratory Topic aimed at evaluating the capabilities of macroalgal varieties to accumulate critical minerals and the ability to efficiently extract these minerals in an economically viable form. The Critical Mineral Extraction from Ocean Macroalgal Biomass Exploratory Topic will focus on:

  1. Identifying mechanisms and maximizing the bioaccumulation of elements in brown or red marine macroalgal species; and
  2. Developing new processes for the efficient extraction and processing of elements into usable forms for energy applications from macroalgal biomass alongside valorization of other macroalgal components (i.e., carbon content, nitrates, etc.).

ARPA-E, is a United States government agency tasked with promoting and funding research and development of advanced energy technologies. It was officially created by the America COMPETES Act within the United States Department of Energy (DOE) in 2007. 

In early January 2011, the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010 made additional changes to ARPA-E’s structure; this structure is codified in Title 42, Chapter 149, Subchapter XVII, § 16538 of the United States Code. Among its main provisions, Section 16538 provides that ARPA-E shall achieve its goals through energy technology projects by doing the following:

  1. Identifying and promoting revolutionary advances in fundamental and applied sciences;
  2. Translating scientific discoveries and cutting-edge inventions into technological innovations; and
  3. Accelerating transformational technological advances in areas that industry by itself is not likely to undertake because of technical and financial uncertainty.

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