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Thursday, October 13, 2022

NASA’s Aircraft will Elevate the Hunt for Critical Minerals in the US

 Note 'supply chains' to plan for their access and retrieval as needed.

NASA’s aircraft will elevate the hunt for critical minerals in the US

 The US is scrambling to build up domestic supply chains for clean energy technologies, which would require a whole lot of critical minerals

By JUSTINE CALMA / @justcalma

NASA and the US Geological Survey plan to deploy aircraft to spot critical minerals buried across the southwest US. They’ll take to the skies to map the minerals, which are crucial to the Biden administration’s plans to build up American clean energy industries.

GEMx is the name of the joint research effort, which will launch with $16 million in funding made possible through the bipartisan infrastructure law, which passed last year. Over the next five years, NASA’s ER-2 and Gulfstream V aircraft will fly over parts of California, Nevada, Arizona, and New Mexico to collect data that could point to where critical mineral resources are most abundant.

Both aircraft will carry a powerful instrument, NASA’s Airborne Visible / Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (AVIRIS), for high-altitude remote sensing. The instrument will measure reflections of light from the Earth’s surface, hyperspectral data that ranges from visible to infrared light. Each mineral reflects light slightly differently, giving it a unique “spectral signature” that can be spotted using these instruments. They’re on the hunt for minerals still in the ground and in mine waste.

Minerals deemed “critical” to the US economy and national security

The goal of the work is to identify the best places to find minerals deemed “critical” to the US economy and national security. The US’s current list of critical minerals includes lithium, nickel, and cobalt, all crucial for making rechargeable batteries, which are used to store renewable energy and power electric vehicles. There’s also tellurium used in solar cells as well as graphite and the rare-earth scandium used in fuel cells — technologies with the potential to produce clean energy. ... ' 

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