The rare earth minerals company Molycorp Inc has announced that it has entered into a cooperative research and development agreement with the U.S. Department of Energy's Ames Laboratory.

We are looking forward to a highly successful partnership between Molycorp and the Ames Laboratory that will incorporate new techniques, processes, and materials into U.S. supply chains, said Debra Covey, Ames Laboratory associate laboratory director for Sponsored Research Administration.

The collaboration combines Ames Laboratory's 60+ years of experience in the critical materials science field with Molycorp's 58+ years of experience in developing and commercializing innovative rare earth processing technologies, the company said in a statement.

This is a significant first step toward a long and mutually beneficial relationship between these two committed entities, said Karl Gschneidner Jr., who will lead the research efforts at Ames Laboratory. The Ames-Molycorp partnership will serve to re-energize applied rare earth research in the U.S., and will begin to ameliorate the current void in intellectual infrastructure in rare earths by training undergraduates, graduate, and post-doctoral students and providing them with research opportunities.

Ames Laboratory scientists will investigate several compositions of rare earth materials and processing techniques with the goal of making permanent rare earth magnets with properties comparable to currently available neodymium-iron-boron magnets. The material combinations studied will correspond with the relative concentrations of rare earth elements in Molycorp's Mountain Pass mine, using techniques that are more cost effective and leave a smaller environmental footprint than current methods, it added.