The missing link needed to wean the global economy off fossil fuels and enable widespread adoption of renewable clean energy and electric cars is energy storage [as provided by manganese]. The U.S. does not produce any, instead relying on others to supply Mn ore and value added manganese products, so shouldn’t manganese as an “energy-critical element” be on all our radar screen.
The comments above and below are excerpts from an article by Rick Mills (aheadoftheherd.com) which has been edited ([ ]) and abridged (…) to provide a fast & easy read.
…Aside from iron, manganese is the most essential mineral in the production of steel. You can’t produce steel without adding 10 to 20 lbs. of manganese per ton of iron which makes manganese the fourth largest traded metal commodity but, while Canada and the United States have numerous and vast iron ore deposits, neither country produces manganese….[In addition,] there is no substitute for manganese (as a matter of fact, manganese has itself become a substitute in certain alloy applications).
…The U.S. is dependent on South Africa, the politically unstable Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and an increasingly unreliable and aggressive China for over half of its supply of what it considers strategic or critical minerals.
Critical materials, especially the ‘big four’ – chromium, cobalt, manganese and the platinum group – are the metallurgical Achilles’ heel of our civilization. Accessing a sustainable, and secure, supply of these raw materials is going to become the number one priority for all countries so why have I singled out manganese?…
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(Before proceeding, it is important to be clear we are talking here about electrolytic manganese, not ferro-manganese or silico-manganese, which are produced in the U.S. from manganese ores imported from Gabon, but mostly supplied as ferro-alloys imported from South Africa, China and elsewhere.)
Electrolytic manganese is used as an alloying element in aluminum and copper alloys, as a colorant in bricks, and combined with lithium or nickel in batteries. Indeed, its use in lithium-ion manganese batteries is its fastest and potentially most challenging application and, if the U.S. cannot access competitively priced and reliable supplies of manganese, a host of high-tech new applications will be lost to foreign competitors…
Current tensions between the United States and China highlight the need for security of supply regarding the materials and minerals the U.S. considers strategic and critical.
A strategic or critical material is a commodity whose lack of availability during a national emergency would seriously affect the economic, industrial, and defensive capability of a country. Manganese has met this criteria for over 100 years.
In its 2011, Critical Materials Strategy Report, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) focused on materials used in four clean energy technologies:
- wind turbines – permanent magnets
- electric vehicles – permanent magnets & advanced batteries
- solar cells – thin film semi conductors
- energy efficient lighting – phosphors
The DOE says they selected these particular components for two reasons:
- Deployment of the clean energy technologies that use them is projected to increase, perhaps significantly, in the short, medium and long term
- Each uses significant quantities of key materials
The DOE defines “criticality” as a measure that combines importance to the clean energy economy and risk of supply disruption.
A Report by the APS Panel on Public Affairs and the Materials Research Society coined the term “energy-critical element” (ECE) to describe a class of elements that currently appear critical to one or more new, energy related technologies – batteries certainly fit in here.
For the last couple of decades energy researchers have focused on capturing power from renewable sources and making our existing electric infrastructure as efficient as possible. Energy storage is the last vital piece, the still missing third link needed to wean the global economy off fossil fuels and enable widespread adoption of renewable clean energy and electric cars…
Is manganese on your screen? If not, it should be.
Related Article from the munKNEE Vault:
Manganese is the 4th most traded metal in the world, mainly because it is indispensable in the production in steel and other alloys. The fastest growing sector, however, is in the use of manganese oxides for use in batteries and particularly rechargeable lithium ion (lithiated manganese dioxide or LMD) batteries. LMD batteries are ideal for applications that require high levels of power all at once such as power tools and now electic and hybrid vehicles. Take a look at the infographic presented here to learn about the important role manganese will play in our future.
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