The Critical Materials Institute

CMI office phone 515-296-4500, e-mail

2332 Pammel Drive, 134 Wilhelm Hall, Iowa State University, Ames, IA 50011-1025

The Critical Materials Institute focuses on technologies that make better use of materials and eliminate the need for materials that are subject to supply disruptions. The 20-page annual report is a summary of CMI work.

These critical materials are essential for American competitiveness in clean energy.  Many materials deemed critical by the U.S. Department of Energy are used in modern clean energy technologies, including wind turbines, solar panels, electric vehicles, and energy-efficient lighting. The Department’s 2011 Critical Materials Strategy reported that supply challenges for five rare earth metals may affect clean energy technology deployment in the coming years.  During its first five years, the Critical Materials Institute focused on these "critical" rare earths and "near-critical" materials: dysprosium, terbium, europium, neodymium and yttrium, as well as lithium and tellurium. Beginning in July 2018, the CMI palette continues efforts on rare earths, increases efforts on lithium and adds new work on cobalt, manganese, gallium, indium, tellurium, the platinum group metals, vanadium and graphite. Additional information is available in Ames Laboratory news. 

The Ames Laboratory leads the CMI team, which includes partners from other national laboratories, universities and industry. CMI Founding Director Alex King summarized the job of the Critical Materials Institute as helping the United States in four ways:

  • Diversifying supplies. If one source goes offline, we can rely on a different source.
  • Developing substitute materials that can meet needs without using the materials we use today.
  • Using the available materials more efficiently:  reducing waste in manufacturing processes, and increasing the adoption of recycling.
  • Forecasting what materials might become critical in the future.

For a brief summary of the problem CMI is intended to solve and how CMI operates, see What CMI Does or this two-page pdf.

The CMI organizational chart and more information about CMI leaders and administrators are available.

The CMI Values are available online and as a pdf.

Videos about the Critical Materials Institute and rare earth elements include this one with researcher Ryan Ott on rare earth recycling, 1:33