Skip to main content

NREL's Vision for the Future: Circular Economy for Energy Materials (Text Version)

This is a text version of a video about one of NREL's critical research objectives: circular economy for energy materials.

Video opens with drawing of NREL signage in the foreground. Various diverse researchers appear.

At NREL, we are committed to solving today’s energy challenges by creating solutions that ensure economic resiliency, human health, and the ability to preserve our natural systems.

A conveyer belt with wind turbines, bottles, beakers, and molecules move along the screen and then fall off the end into a big pile.

A sustainable economy, coupled with our energy transformation, requires us to move beyond our linear economy of make-use-dispose to create a circular economy for energy-relevant and energy-intensive materials, processes, and technologies.

We see a female NREL researcher and a man from industry. They are looking at a large whiteboard and drawing abstract equations, molecules, the recycle symbol, turbines, solar panels, and batteries.

NREL is poised to bring its research capabilities to help industry develop and implement new concepts and processes that will realize new value chains, create sustainable pathways, increase reliability, improve resiliency, and reduce toxicity and waste.

Camera pulls out to reveal a town around the two individuals. We see plenty of trees. We see a factory with a recycling symbol on the side. We see vehicles, wind turbines, and solar panels.

Our research will establish foundational knowledge and technologies to create a circular economy—an energy economy designed around circularity with eco-design to re-mine valuable minerals, materials, devices, and polymers.

Video shows drawing of a square, perovskite solar cell and a hand begins to paint the cell plate, followed by a shot of a plastic bottle disintegrating.

This course is already underway, as we are designing and discovering new renewable energy technologies such as high-efficiency perovskite solar PV materials, microorganisms that deconstruct common plastics, and new bio-based methods to reuse and upcycle plastics and polymers. 

A female researcher passes the beaker to the man in the suit from before in front of general industry business sign, Clean Energy Corp. 

These breakthroughs are already being established for commercial applications.

Abstract images are drawn to represent graphs, equations, and analysis, and then images of chemicals, molecules, beakers are added into the mix. Images then move into a closed, rotating loop around a globe.

In concert with industry, we use our modeling, analysis, machine learning, and performance-testing expertise to inform research directions for materials designed for resiliency, reliability, re-mining, reuse and remanufacturing—
all which systematically support a closed-loop supply chain system for planetary sustainability. 

Drawings of a university, government building, and a building labeled Nonprofit appear onscreen.

In addition to industry, we’re working with collaborators in academia, government, and nonprofit partners to share in our vision and participate in our research.

Video cuts back to the small town, but we now see more trees, plants, children playing, and a river.

Taken together, NREL’s vision for a circular economy will create value in place of waste and a sustainable energy system for communities worldwide.

Text is written on a blank white screen. 

Follow us at nrel.gov.