As the world pursues ambitious net-zero carbon emission goals, demand is soaring for the critical materials required for the technologies leading the energy transition. Lithium may be the most well-known of these inputs due to its usage in batteries for vehicles and consumer electronics, but roughly 50 other minerals are central to energy transition technologies. During the coming years, producers, manufacturers and end-users will be increasingly exposed to the roles played by “rare earth” elements (roughly, atomic numbers 57 to 71), platinum group metals, and other materials.
The reasons for this heightened interest are simple—even if the underlying environmental, political and technological forces at play are complex:
- Lower-carbon technologies use different materials than carbon-intensive technologies.
The mineral requirements of power and mobility systems driven by renewable, nuclear, hydrogen and fusion energy are profoundly different from those forming the backbone of fossil fuel systems. Minerals such as lithium, nickel, copper, cobalt, and rare earth elements are vital for electric vehicles (EVs), batteries, fuel cells, electricity grids, wind turbines, smart devices, and many other essential and proliferating civilian and military technologies. For example, an offshore wind plant needs 13 times more mineral resources than a gas power plant of a similar size.
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