November 03, 2023

Kilmer Announces $1.35 Million for Clean Energy Research in Sequim

Sequim’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory to Spearhead Extraction of Critical Minerals for Energy Applications

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Representative Derek Kilmer (WA-06) 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 catalysis 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. “This investment is a testament to our commitment to innovative research that can lead to groundbreaking advancements in energy technologies. The Sequim Lab is a unique asset for both the Energy Department and for our region’s economy. I’ll keep working to support its mission.”

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.

“We know we need different sets of critical mineral supply chains to reach President Biden’s ambitious clean energy and decarbonization targets,” said ARPA-E Director Evelyn N. Wang. “The teams announced today are up for the challenge of exploring the environmental, temporal, and ecological factors that influence the content of REEs and PGMs in macroalgae, and then developing methods to extract these critical minerals. I’m glad these teams are joining ARPA-E’s strong ocean portfolio, and I look forward to seeing the technologies they develop.”

The team 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 announced today can be found on the ARPA-E website.

The PNNL-Sequim campus houses the only marine research facilities in the U.S. Department of Energy complex. The campus is uniquely positioned for marine-based research that is focused on helping the nation achieve sustainable energy, a sustaining environment, and coastal security.

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