In This Issue
Summer Bridge on Critical Materials
June 15, 2024 Volume 54 Issue 2
The summer issue of The Bridge discusses leveraging new and emerging technologies, infrastructure, innovative approaches, and a resilient supply chain to ensure a stable and reliable supply of critical materials far into the future.

Guest Editor's Note: The Future of Critical Materials

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Author: Jennie S. Hwang (NAE) is CEO of H-Technologies Group.

Significant efforts have been made in the critical ­materials arena on the national level, yet further holistic and amalgamated approaches are required to develop a robust and integrated national strategy and its corresponding actionable plans and to implement them in a deliberate, comprehensive, and speedy manner. This will ensure economic prosperity and national security, as well as the nation’s global competitiveness.

In this context, this issue is dedicated to helping the nation ensure stable and reliable critical materials. In this issue, “material” is used broadly to refer to an element, mineral, substance, compound, or material in metallic, ceramic, organic (polymeric), or inorganic nature, encompassing end-use applications across all sectors.

This issue brings together a stellar slate of experts with diverse experiences and perspectives from industry, national laboratories, and academia. Each article focuses on a single topic or multiple aspects of critical materials. Collectively, this issue provides informative coverage of and wide-ranging views on critical materials going forward. In particular, articles in this issue discuss leveraging new and emerging technologies, desired infrastructure, innovative approaches, and a resilient supply chain to ­fortify US competitiveness by securing critical materials for decades to come.

In This Issue

In the opening article, “Key Issues, Approaches, and Strategies to Ensure Reliable Critical Materials,” Jennie S. Hwang highlights the cross-cutting, concerted approach, the role of business and government, and the impact of deploying new tools such as artificial intelligence to tackle supply chain challenges. The article also offers recommendations for multifaceted strategic deliberations and implementation with the goal of overcoming the ultimate challenges by formulating preemptive solutions while not creating solutions that could be potentially worse than the problems.

The second article,Technology and Innovation Enablers for Critical Mineral Production” by Mark E. Russell, Lindley Specht, Steve Klepper, and Alfred ­Pandiscio, focuses on rare earth elements (REEs), a group of materials critical to national security and the aerospace and defense sectors. The article highlights production, innovative processes, and technology-driven approaches while minimizing supply chain vulnerability and the environmental impacts of processing and using REEs.

As the electronics content in every product and service, from consumer and industrial to computer and communication to aerospace and defense, continues to increase, robust electronics manufacturing at every level of the electronics hierarchy is indispensable to all sectors of products and services. In “Critical Materials Risks to ­Electronics Manufacturing: Global Impacts and Actions Needed” John W. Mitchell outlines the key areas and paths forward for electronics manufacturing.

In “An Automotive View of Critical and Sustainable Materials” Paul E. Krajewski discusses what it will take for the automobile industry to successfully transition to an electric, autonomous, and connected future, and he offers cogent recommendations. He notes, “Automobiles are created using almost every element in the periodic table, from aluminum to zinc. A consistent supply of these ­materials is essential to avoiding interruptions in production.”

The phenomenal innovation and advancement of semiconductor chips rely on packaging technologies and corresponding materials to connect chips to real-world end-use applications. Per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) have served as key substances in semiconductor packaging. However, PFAS materials exhibit the propensity for a range of health concerns through water ­supply. In “Critical Needs for Non-PFAS Semiconductor ­Packaging Materials” Pradeep Lall presents semi­conductor packaging technologies and the need for non-PFAS materials as alternatives to PFAS.

“Lithium-Ion Batteries: A New Opportunity for the Circular Economy and Recycling” by Francisco F. ­Roberto and Robert C. Dunne offers an illuminating summary of key aspects of lithium-ion batteries. The authors illuminate the circular economy with the 3R (“Reduce à Re-use à Recycle”) approach, which is a crucial facet of meeting the demand for critical materials.

In “Unlocking Alternative Solutions for Critical ­Materials via Materials Informatics” Rémi ­Dingreville, Nathaniel Trask, Brad Lee Boyce, and George Em ­Karniadakis vividly present the challenges of finding viable solutions to critical materials and the merits of using materials informatics, including generative modeling, for scientific discovery and understanding.

Aluminum is listed as one of the fifty critical ­minerals, according to the secretary of the interior, acting through the director of the 2022 US Geological Survey. In “­Sustainable Metal Production and Use in the Twenty-First Century: Challenges and a Path Forward,” Diran ­Apelian, Emily Molstad, Sean Kelly, Subodh Das, ­Barbara K. Reck, and Alan Luo provide a comprehensive discussion of the crucial aspects of this vital metal.


My deepest gratitude goes to the authors for their insightful and forward-thinking contributions, to The Bridge editor Kyle Gipson for his tireless assistance throughout the entire process, and to Ronald M. Latanision, editor in chief, and Penelope Gibbs, production associate, for their guidance and support throughout the publication process. It has been an absolute delight to work with all authors and the editorial and production teams.

I also would like to thank the following, who have provided thoughtful input in assessing the drafts for accuracy, coverage, and substantiation: Kevin ­Anderson, Kenneth Blecker, Frank Castle, Ming Dao, Arun Devaraj, Denise Gray, Neal Herring, Jay Hill, Ravi Mahajan, ­Brajendra Mishra, Chris Pistorius, Greg Reed, Anil Sachdev, Ephraim Suhir, Jaimal Williamson, and Matt Zaluzec.

About the Author:Jennie S. Hwang (NAE) is CEO of H-Technologies Group.