Research Foundation News

April 18, 2024

Returning rare earth element production to the United States

ReElement Technologies licenses Purdue critical mineral refining tech and will begin production in late 2024

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — ReElement Technologies on Thursday (April 18) signed an exclusive license to use patented Purdue University technologies to domestically refine and sell minerals critical in manufacturing modern, high-tech products for commercial and industrial use.

The license was signed during the Purdue Innovates Startup and Technology Expo 2024 at the Purdue University Memorial Union.

Sourcing rare earth and critical battery elements

Rare earth elements are foundational essentials in permanent magnets found in hard drives, electric vehicles, wind turbines and many other advanced applications. Critical battery elements such as lithium, nickel, cobalt and manganese power advanced energy efforts through battery technologies. 

CEO Mark Jensen of ReElement said most rare earth and battery elements are obtained today from foreign countries, notably China.

“This is problematic for two reasons,” Jensen said. “First, not having a fully domesticated supply chain poses a national security concern. Second, traditional mining processes used in foreign countries are outdated and produce enormous amounts of pollution.”

Jensen said efforts to return rare earth and battery element production to the U.S. have been unsuccessful due to low labor costs in foreign countries.

ReElement President Ben Wrightsman said that even secondary uses and refining of rare earth elements depend on China. 

“Rare earths are utilized globally, and yet nearly all roads lead from, through and back to China,” Wrightsman said. “It is imperative that we ensure a global ecosystem and establish independent versus limited-source, single-dependent, refining supply chains.” 

Wrightsman said this partnership and technology deployment with Purdue will ensure the U.S. can gain a necessary independence for rare earths and critical minerals.

The Purdue rare earth elements innovation 

Nien-Hwa “Linda” Wang, a researcher in Purdue’s College of Engineering, leads a team that developed innovative technologies to separate and purify rare earth and battery elements from a variety of sources including ores, postindustrial wastes and recycled magnets. Wang is the Dr. Norman and Dr. Jane Li Professor in Chemical Engineering in Purdue’s Davidson School of Chemical Engineering.

The innovations improve upon current industrial methods by using significantly less power and water and fewer hazardous chemicals while generating near-zero waste. They also have a higher extraction yield, higher purity, smaller footprint and higher efficiency than traditional industrial methods to source rare earth and battery elements. 

About the license and commercialization

ReElement initially licensed Wang’s rare earth elements technology in 2021 from the Purdue Innovates Office of Technology Commercialization. The license agreement signed April 18 significantly expands the fields of use and allows the company to separate and purify rare earth and battery elements from any feedstock material.

The company has developed commercial-scale processes based on the Purdue technologies. It is constructing its first commercial facility in Marion, Indiana, with the expectation to initially hire 40-60 employees, eventually growing to over 250 full-time employees on-site. Production of rare earth elements and the company’s first sales are anticipated to begin in late 2024.

What they’re saying

Mark Jensen, CEO, ReElement Technologies: “ReElement and Purdue technology will ensure that finite resources and associated supply chains are now far more infinite and independent. These are both critical to supporting the advanced energy economy here in the U.S. and globally.”

Dan Hasler, founder and president, Hasler Ventures LLC: “Our economy and national security are totally dependent on separated and purified rare earth metals nearly solely produced in China. We’ve got to get serious about creating a domestic supply chain that ends with final high purity product, and this technology looks to be the enabler.”

Linda Wang, Dr. Norman and Dr. Jane Li Professor in Chemical Engineering, Purdue University: “My students and I are thrilled that ReElement Technologies is bringing this method to separate and purify rare earth and battery elements to the market. Its impact will be felt not only by industry but by people who care about the environment. There have been a lot of people who have worked with me, from the College of Engineering to the Purdue Innovates Office of Technology Commercialization, to funders at the state and federal level. Developing this technology has taken many years, but it is ready for the next giant leap of commercialization.”

Brooke Beier, senior vice president, Purdue Innovates: “The success story of ReElement commercializing Purdue-discovered technology is another example of how Purdue Innovates supports university researchers, industry and efforts to strengthen our national security. Our team worked with the lead inventor, Linda Wang, to vet and protect her intellectual property and worked with ReElement leadership to bring it to market and impact the state of Indiana’s economic development with new jobs.”

About ReElement Technologies 

ReElement Technologies is committed to leading the domestic supply chain for rare earth and battery elements in the electrified economy. The company has proven that its patented chromatographic separation and purification are low-cost, scalable, flexible and environmentally safe replacements for the existing environmentally and ethically hazardous alternatives used around the globe for rare earth and critical element separation and purification.

About Purdue Innovates Office of Technology Commercialization 

The Purdue Innovates Office of Technology Commercialization operates one of the most comprehensive technology transfer programs among leading research universities in the U.S. Services provided by this office support the economic development initiatives of Purdue University and benefit the university’s academic activities through commercializing, licensing and protecting Purdue intellectual property. In fiscal year 2023, the office reported 150 deals finalized with 203 technologies signed, 400 disclosures received and 218 issued U.S. patents. The office is managed by the Purdue Research Foundation, which received the 2019 Innovation and Economic Prosperity Universities Award for Place from the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. In 2020, IPWatchdog Institute ranked Purdue third nationally in startup creation and in the top 20 for patents. The Purdue Research Foundation is a private, nonprofit foundation created to advance the mission of Purdue University. Contact for more information.

About Purdue University 

Purdue University is a public research institution demonstrating excellence at scale. Ranked among top 10 public universities and with two colleges in the top four in the United States, Purdue discovers and disseminates knowledge with a quality and at a scale second to none. More than 105,000 students study at Purdue across modalities and locations, including nearly 50,000 in person on the West Lafayette campus. Committed to affordability and accessibility, Purdue’s main campus has frozen tuition 13 years in a row. See how Purdue never stops in the persistent pursuit of the next giant leap — including its first comprehensive urban campus in Indianapolis, the new Mitchell E. Daniels, Jr. School of Business, and Purdue Computes — at

Writer/Media contact: Steve Martin,

Sources: Mark Jensen,

Ben Wrightsman,




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