Modern society depends on a wide and increasing array of raw materials — from simple steels to esoteric compounds derived from the far corners of the periodic table — to produce the products that enrich our lives and sustain our standard of living. Some of these materials are particularly vulnerable to supply disruptions due to natural disasters, geopolitics, or step changes in demand brought about by technological breakthroughs. Materials criticality is concerned with understanding these dynamics and finding ways to ensure adequate near- and long-term supply of these materials.
This article introduces methods for identifying at-risk, critical materials and outlines general strategies for addressing materials criticality challenges. In addition, this article highlights some of the technical aspects associated with the production, processing, and recycling of three critical materials (helium, rhenium, and magnesium) — illustrating how the supply chain of critical materials can be improved.