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Concord University to Develop Research Center for Rare Earth Elements in Coal, Thanks to Federal Appropriations Funding


January 9, 2023 - Concord University will receive $642,000 in appropriations funding—secured by Senator Joe Manchin in the Fiscal Year 2023 Omnibus Appropriations bill—to create a research center to analyze Rare Earth Elements (REEs) in coal and coal byproducts. REEs are increasingly required for many different modern applications in defense and renewable energy technologies and in commercial products (i.e. magnets, batteries, and catalysts). Mercer County is an ideal location for REE research because it is at the heart of the southern West Virginia metallurgical coal fields.

Concord will expand its existing laboratory infrastructure by building a prototype for a new instrument specially optimized for measuring REEs and other economically critical elements present in trace quantities. The instrument will provide world-leading capabilities to government, academia, and the private sector.

“Concord University continues to make our state proud with innovative scientific research, which is why I successfully fought to secure this funding to help establish their new research center,” said Senator Manchin. “The initiative will help expand our knowledge about Rare Earth Elements in coal and coal byproducts, as well as other critical minerals, and the Mountain State is the ideal location for this groundbreaking research that can improve our energy security. As Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and as a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I will continue working with federal, state and local leaders to support scientific research opportunities across West Virginia.”

“Concord University’s project will enhance economic development by establishing core infrastructure to attract and support new research enterprise in southern West Virginia,” said President Kendra Boggess. “We are eager not only to offer this opportunity to Concord students, but to facilitate development of regional REE natural resources for southern West Virginia and beyond. Thank you, Senator Manchin, for supporting this project.”

Concord University’s research center will use Electron Probe Microanalysis (EPMA) which is a major analytical and micro-imaging technique commonly applied to natural and synthetic solid materials. EPMA combines electron microscopy and X-ray spectroscopy techniques into a single instrument and provides fine scale micro-imaging and quantitative chemical analysis down to a scale of 1/1000th of a millimeter.

Concord University has a 12-year track record of operating the only EPMA facility in West Virginia and hosts instrument hardware that provides an ideal platform for developing enhanced capabilities.