Under the terms of the agreement, both universities will work to advance the manufacturing sector and support US producers and consumers, all while helping to develop a "well-trained workforce" to meet the need for US-sourced minerals.
Specifically, the partnership will explore research opportunities; collaborative professional development; industrial partnerships with graduate and undergraduate internships; the establishment of degree and/or certificate partnerships; collaborative courses, lectures, conferences and symposia; and reciprocal exchange of students and faculty members.
For the purpose of the partnership, the two schools have defined critical minerals broadly as any with "exceptional economic importance" and found in most current electronics. There are 35 minerals considered critical, including 17 under the umbrella of rare earth elements.
"Both schools are committed to developing new innovations to enable a complete US capability for critical minerals, from basic science to supply chain through to production," Penn State senior vice president for research Lora Weiss said.
"Together we span from Appalachia to the Rockies and collectively we have the technical base and established relationships with stakeholders to realize the full potential value of our natural resources. Our combined team is well-positioned to be extremely responsive to the country's critical minerals needs."
According to the schools' data, the US currently imports nearly 100% of its needed rare earth elements, and China now produces about 85% of the world's supply.
"Our immediate plan is to develop relationships with the industries that are leading the effort to produce rare critical elements domestically," PSU professor of energy and mineral engineering and chemical engineering Sarma Pisupati said.
"Our goal is to become the backbone for research for these industries to support them in solving the nation's dependence on importing critical minerals."
Penn State launched its Center for Critical Minerals in spring 2019.