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US firms reestablish rare earth element production
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US firms reestablish rare earth element production
by Clarence Oxford
Los Angeles CA (SPX) Apr 22, 2024

ReElement Technologies has recently secured an exclusive license for using Purdue University's patented technologies to refine and distribute minerals critical for producing high-tech commercial and industrial products within the United States.

This licensing agreement was formalized at the 2024 Purdue Innovates Startup and Technology Expo, held at the Purdue University Memorial Union.

Rare earth elements, crucial in the manufacture of permanent magnets used in hard drives, electric vehicles, and wind turbines, and critical battery elements like lithium, nickel, cobalt, and manganese, which fuel advanced energy solutions, are currently primarily sourced from abroad, particularly China.

"Relying on foreign sources for these materials poses national security risks and environmental concerns due to the outdated and polluting mining processes used," explained Mark Jensen, CEO of ReElement.

According to Jensen, past attempts to relocate production of these elements to the U.S. have been hindered by the competitive low labor costs overseas.

Ben Wrightsman, President of ReElement, highlighted the dependence on China for not only the mining but also the secondary processing and refining of rare earth elements. "It is critical to develop an independent and robust global supply chain to avoid reliance on single-source, limited options," he stated.

The partnership with Purdue, according to Wrightsman, aims to establish the necessary independence for the U.S. in sourcing rare earths and critical minerals.

Dr. Nien-Hwa Wang, leading a Purdue College of Engineering team, has developed technologies that enhance the separation and purification of these elements from various sources, including ores and recycled magnets. These technologies boast greater efficiency, yield, and environmental benefits compared to traditional methods.

The expanded licensing agreement allows ReElement to use these technologies to process any feedstock material. With plans to open a commercial facility in Marion, Indiana, the company anticipates creating up to 250 full-time jobs and starting production by late 2024.

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