Kilmer: Sequim lab gets $1.35M for clean energy research

U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer on Nov. 3 announced $1.35 million in new federal funding for the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) 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, Kilmer’s office noted in a press release, while 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 to extract critical minerals from macroalgae represent a significant leap forward in our quest for sustainable energy solutions and a carbon-neutral future,” Kilmer said in the release.

“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.”

PNNL will 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,” ARPA-E director Evelyn N. Wang said. “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.”

According go the release, lab team members will study methods to efficiently extract REEs and PGMs from “hyper-accumulating species” of marine macroalgae.

Sequim’s PNNL campus houses the only marine research facilities in the U.S. Department of Energy complex.