Mike Whittaker, research scientist in the Energy Geoscience Division, is a co-founder of the Lithium Resource Research and Innovation Center-a group that researches how to satisfy the increasing lithium demand as renewable energy sources become essential to achieving net zero emissions.
On January 19, Whittaker led a virtual event, “Critical Materials and Minerals (CMM) Town Hall,” to discuss the importance of research about elements that are essential for economic and national security. The event started by highlighting an overarching goal of the Department of Energy- to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. As detailed by the World Bank report Minerals for Climate Action, this requires production of critical minerals at approximately five times the current rate. To encourage collaboration on such pressing topics, the event included brief presentations from researchers from across Berkeley Lab who are studying CMM subjects ranging from extracting materials from wastewater to the lifecycle of batteries.
In its strategic plan, EESA describes its collective vision for solving the most pressing energy and environmental challenges of our time. Related to Sustainable Earth, one of EESA’s five grand challenges, CMM research is urgent not only because of its potential for renewable energy transition, but also to ensure these essential elements are extracted in an environmentally sustainable way.
“A huge opportunity exists to source the critical minerals that are essential to a clean energy future from domestic sources that have so far been unexplored,” Whittaker explained. “Attaining independent control of supply chains, beginning with resources, motivates an integrated, national effort to unlock these resources justly and sustainably.”
To explore these topics in more detail, there will be a series of CMM Workshops, the first on February 15 at 3 p.m.