EVERETT, Wash. – October 5, 2016 – This week, Washington State University’s (WSU) newest campus in Everett hosted a symposium for the Joint Center for the Deployment and Research of Earth-Abundant Materials (JCDREAM).

The symposium focused on the future of using earth abundant materials instead of rare earth elements, precious metals and so-called ‘conflict minerals,’ which are essential to nearly all of the electronic devices people use each day. That includes your car, computer and all of your lights.

“One of the reasons the colors are so bright on your computer screen is because of rare earths — Europium in particular,” said Chris Keane, vice president of research at WSU.

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According to Dr. Alex King of the Critical Materials Institute, who was the symposium’s keynote speaker, modern mobile phones contain about 75 elements alone. That’s up from 30 when the first mobile phones reached consumers. That trend will continue and demand will increase for limited rare earth resources, according to King, especially as the world’s population sees greater economic prosperity and more people have the financial capacity to buy such devices.

The Daily Herald reported that 90 percent of rare earth production in the world is controlled by China. “One of the impacts of JCDREAM could be to make that statistic irrelevant,” said Dr. Dave Field, associate dean for research in the Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture, who serves as the acting director of the center. “The center’s research will focus on alternatives to various rare earth elements and better methods of recycling them from common electronic devices.”

The center, headquartered at WSU North Puget Sound at Everett, was funded by legislation championed by Rep. Norma Smith, R-Clinton. Kicking off the symposium, Smith said, “I’m so excited to learn how we can partner with you to propel these issues forward. If we harness the intellectual horsepower at our research institutions, and we help to educate a generation of young men and women who long to create economies that are sustainable, then we can lead this nation.”

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Rep. Norma Smith speaking about the opportunities of earth abundant materials research

Smith added, “The second part is to be able build it here, to deploy it here, to raise up jobs that have the opportunity of not only being a benefit to our economy, but to the world.”

Research will be a collaborative effort led by WSU, the University of Washington and Pacific Northwest National Laboratories (PNNL). Community colleges will also become partners, as well as several local industry leaders.

“It was critical to launch our research with strong partnerships from local industry. We had a tremendous reception from leaders from Modumetal, PACCAR, The Boeing Company, EnerG2, Kaiser Aluminum, and so many more,” said Field. “This symposium brought the right people together and clarified our purpose. It was exactly how we wanted to move this research forward.”

“We are thrilled to be launching JCDREAM as our first research initiative at our campus in Everett,” WSU Everett chancellor Paul Pitre said. “Community leaders in the North Puget Sound region are looking for growth in research from WSU and opportunities for that research to seed a series of new companies in the region. This is where that begins.”

Looking to the future of the burgeoning research, Smith said, “Let’s take this toddler and do something with the amazing potential of JCDREAM. I know each and every year it’s going to be so exciting to see it grow and flourish. With your help we will indeed help lead this nation and lead this world.”

Contact: Dave Field