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Science and Technology Partnerships and Outreach

Securing Critical Materials Supply Chains

The Challenge: Clean Energy Demand for Critical Materials 

Rapidly increasing demand for clean energy, including transportation technologies for decarbonizing the economy, has created an explosion in the demand for critical materials such as neodymium, praseodymium and dysprosium. However, mining, processing, and production of many of these critical materials are concentrated in a handful of geopolitically sensitive regions. This dependence introduces supply chain vulnerabilities and jeopardizes the U.S.‘s energy decarbonization goals.

Critical Need: Evaluating Critical Materials Supply Risks 

Robust, end-to-end supply chain analysis allows decision-makers in government and industry to explore numerous what-if scenarios that offer both proactive and remedial measures to address critical materials supply risks. Supply chain analysis provides a reliable basis for making strategic decisions.

What Argonne Delivers: Advanced Dynamic Modeling Tools 

Argonne’s suite of supply chain analysis tools model supply chain dynamics and uncertainty under scenarios such as demand growth or shrinkage, technology adoption, competing markets, range of supply disruptions, and adversarial trade policies. 

The supply chain analysis is driven by the Global Critical Materials (GCMat) agent-based model. This model, which Argonne develops in close collaboration with a sponsor’s unique needs, also explores the effectiveness of mitigation strategies such as adding new supply sources, product substitution, consumer thrifting, and stockpiling.

Benefits: Securing Critical Materials Supplies 

Supply chain participants from mining through final demand are modeled as interacting agents that make business decisions independently as time progresses. These decisions lead to projections of potential outcomes under a variety of scenarios, all informed by carefully curated datasets and sound economic theory. GCMat modeling outcomes help prioritize securing critical materials supplies.

Argonne’s Impact

Argonne has used GCMat to help multiple sponsors evaluate risks and mitigation strategies associated with critical material supply chains. Select collaborations are listed below.

Evaluating Material Stockpile Requirements

Argonne helped the Defense Logistics Agency analyze strategic stockpile needs in conflict scenarios. The results were featured in the U.S. Department of Defense’s 2017, 2019, and 2021 Strategic and Critical Material Stockpile reports to Congress.

Analysis of Supply Chain for Permanent Magnets in Wind Turbines and Electric Vehicles

Argonne helped the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) understand how the adoption of clean energy technologies can influence the prices of critical materials such as neodymium and dysprosium, and how critical material scarcity can affect technology choice for wind turbines and electric vehicles (EVs).

Analysis of Domestic Development of Unconventional Sources

Argonne evaluated the effectiveness of the development of new domestic rare earth production from unconventional sources for DOE.

Analysis of Supply Chain for Electric Vehicle Battery Materials

Argonne is using lab-directed research funds to analyze supply chains of key materials used in electric vehicle batteries. Material costs are a large share of battery materials pricing. As battery production increases, there is potential for shortages of key materials such as lithium, cobalt and nickel. This effort builds on Argonne’s extensive expertise in material synthesis, techno-economic modeling, and recycling of EV batteries.