As the United States expands its investment in clean energy technology, the demand for clean energy minerals from viable sources will increase. Plants naturally accumulate metals and other nutrients from the soil in their leaves, stems, and roots. ‘Phytomining’ could harness this natural activity of plants to accumulate and collect minerals for downstream use in clean energy technologies.

Through PHYTOMINES, ARPA-E will fund research projects that investigate the feasibility of cost-competitive and low-carbon footprint extraction of nickel in soil by terrestrial plants. The nickel-rich bio-ore derived from such plants could establish a competitive domestic supply chain to supplement conventional mining methods and reduce nickel imports. ARPA-E seeks to de-risk future investments in the improvement of phytomining systems technologies for nickel and other critical materials, optimize nickel accumulation rates in plants that grow in nickel-rich soils, and improve awareness of phytomining’s potential application in underutilized and nonagricultural lands.

Program Director(s):

Dr. Philseok Kim