LabEx RESSOURCES21: understanding and managing strategic metals in the 21st century
Strategic metals are rare, non-renewable natural resources extracted from underground deposits. These metals, examples of which include nickel, antimony, gallium and other rare earth elements, possess highly specialised properties (e.g., electrical conduction, resistance to heat, torque or corrosion) that make them essential components in at least three major fields:
- Energy transition: in particular, solar energy (Ge, Ge, In), wind energy (Nd in the permanent magnets of the generators), electric cars (rare earth minerals, Li batteries), low-energy light bulbs;
- The production of high-tech and high-value consumer goods such as telephones, computers, domestic appliances, aircraft, weapons and sensitive technologies (e.g., Au, Sb, rare earths);
- Increasing the strength of various tools and materials (e.g., W, Sc, Nb, Ta).
Global population growth (an estimated 9 billion people by 2050), the boom in and spread of new technologies, and the growing needs of emerging economies such as China and India, are all contributing to an ever-increasing demand for rare metal resources. Given the potential threats to the supply of these metals (risk of disruption or shortages), the development of new techniques and strategies for recycling metals has become a major economic and geopolitical challenge for all European countries. Unfortunately, recycling alone is not sufficient, and securing access to raw materials is essential.
To meet the challenges that lie in strategic metal supply, the Laboratory of Excellence, “Strategic Metal Resources in the 21st Century - RESSOURCES21”, has brought together a multidisciplinary team of researchers from the OTElo scientific centre (Observatoire Terre et Environnement Lorraine- Lorraine Earth and Environment Observatory) scientific centre, which is made up of four laboratories: LIEC (Interdisciplinary Laboratory for Continental Environments), GéoRessources, LSE (Soil and Environments Laboratory), and CRPG (Centre for Petrographical and Geochemical Research).
The LabEx RESSOURCES21 research project applies an integrated scientific and educational approach for the understanding, exploitation and environmental management of strategic metal resources for the 21st century. The research addresses many challenges in terms of geology, mineral processing and environmental and ecotoxicological impact. Particular emphasis is placed on understanding the processes that lead to the formation of metal deposits, developing innovative tools for ore processing, and enhancing our understanding of the environmental impact of these metals once scattered throughout the ecosystem. View the research topics currently being developed by LabEx RESSOURCES21