Talking Points Memo: The US Department of Energy has established a $120 million, 5-year grant to fund a new research center at Ames National Laboratory in Ames, Iowa. The Critical Materials Institute will focus on securing a steady supply of the five rare earth elements that are most likely to run out. Rare earth elements are a group of 17 metals used in a wide range of modern electronics from cars and earbuds to smartphones and computers. The limited supply of rare earth elements is due to Chinese restrictions on their export and the difficulty of obtaining the individual elements. Because of their chemical similarities, rare earths tend to all occur in the same raw ore. Current processes for isolating them from that ore return only 5% purified material. The Hub, as the new institute is already known, will be working to develop improved methods for the extraction and isolation of rare earths and distributing that information to mining companies.