(CLOSED) Critical Minerals & Materials: Chemical and Materials Sciences Research on Rare Earth and Platinum Group Elements (DE-FOA-0002483)

Sponsor Name: 
Description of the Award: 

The DOE SC program in Basic Energy Sciences (BES) program announces its interest in receiving applications from single investigators and multi-disciplinary teams to support experimental and theoretical research to advance chemical and materials sciences relevant to the following:

  • Critical minerals – the natural resource for obtaining critical elements;
  • Critical elements – atomic elements that are subject to supply risks and are incorporated in critical materials; and
  • Critical materials – substances that provide essential functionality in key technologies and have no easy substitutes.

Critical elements play a central role in both critical minerals and critical materials. These elements influence the mineral properties as well as the mechanisms of incorporation and extraction of the critical elements. They also dictate the properties that control the function of critical materials, including both molecules and materials, used in a broad range of technologically important and energy relevant applications. These properties include superconductivity, magnetism, quantum phenomena, light generation, magnetocaloric behavior, and catalytic activity. This FOA is focused on gaining an understanding of the fundamental properties and mechanisms of critical minerals, elements, and materials to improve separation and extraction processes and to enable discovery and design of alternates to critical materials that reduce or eliminate the need for critical elements. Thus, this fundamental knowledge will support the DOE strategy to diversify supply, develop substitutes, and improve reuse and recycling of critical minerals and materials. While multiple elements have been identified as critical based on their availability and technological importance, this funding opportunity is restricted to basic research related to rare earth and platinum group elements.

To provide the underpinning science for enabling the DOE critical minerals and materials strategy, this funding opportunity supports basic research in chemical and materials sciences to understand and control processes and properties of materials and molecules containing rare earth elements (REE) and platinum group elements (PGE). As materials/molecules containing REE and PGE become increasingly essential to our economy and national security, and their availability becomes more restricted, it is important to ensure a stable supply chain, increase their efficient use, and identify substitutes that can provide similar or even enhanced functionalities with a reduced need for these critical elements. Key aspects of basic research in this field include understanding the role of REE and PGE in the functionality of materials and molecular systems; discovering innovative strategies to enhance their availability; establishing new approaches for more efficient separation from naturally occurring and recycled materials; and identifying alternatives to reduce/eliminate their use in energy-relevant technologies.

Applications are requested that address one or more of the following scientific Research Topics:

  1. Physical and Chemical Properties
  2. Geological Systems
  3. Separation Science
  4. Design and Synthesis of Materials or Molecules

Note: One or more of the above Research Topics must be listed on the cover pages of both the pre-application and application. More detailed descriptions of each topic are included in the FOA.


Applications to this FOA must emphasize fundamental scientific research. Applications in the following areas are outside the scope of this FOA: applied research such as design of instruments, process optimization, and feasibility demonstrations; technology development or contributions to proprietary or commercial products; and research that could be more appropriately supported by other DOE offices such as Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), Fossil Energy (FE), Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E), and Small Business Innovative Research / Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR / STTR).

Bio-inspiration for new principles and approaches may be derived from knowledge of microbial mechanisms and processes. However, research that is primarily synthetic biology or biological systems engineering is outside the scope of this FOA.

Limit (Number of applicants permitted per institution): 
Sponsor LOI Deadline: 
Apr 12, 2021
Sponsor Final Deadline: 
Jun 09, 2021
OVPR Application or NOI Instructions: 

Interested applicants should upload the following documents in sequence in one PDF file (File name: Last name_DE-FOA-0002483_2021.pdf) no later than 4:00 p.m. on the internal submission deadline:

1. Cover Page (1 page, pdf):

  • Descriptive title of proposed activity
  • PI name, departmental affiliations(s) and contact information
  • Co-PI's names and departmental affiliation(s)
  • Names of other key personnel
  • Participating institution(s)
  • Number and title of this funding opportunity
  • Primary Research Topic
  • Secondary Research Topic(s)

2. Project Description (no more than three pages, pdf) identifying the project scope that addresses the key aspects and elements of the sponsor's solicitation, principal investigators, collaborators, and partner organizations.

3. 2-page CV's of Investigators

Formatting Guidelines:

Font/size: Times New Roman (not smaller than 11 pt.)
Document margins: 1.0” (top, bottom, left and right)
Standard paper size (8 ½” x 11)

To be considered as a Penn State institutional nominee, please submit a notice of intent by the date provided directly below.
This limited submission is in downselect: 
Penn State may only submit a specific number of proposals to this funding opportunity. The number of NOIs received require that an internal competition take place, thus, a downselect process has commenced. No Penn State researchers may apply to this opportunity outside of this downselect process. To apply for this limited submission, please use this link:
OVPR Downselect Deadline: 
Friday, April 2, 2021 - 4:00pm
For help or questions: 

Questions concerning the limited submissions process may be submitted to limitedsubs@psu.edu.

Athanasios Karamalidis (E&MS); Andrew Smye (E&MS)