Robert Bosch GmbH, a German multinational engineering, and technology company, has partnered with IBM to develop quantum computing and simulation technologies to identify alternatives to the rare earth and metals required for electric vehicles. IBM’s quantum technology and supercomputers will help Bosch analyze the properties of potential candidates and identify the best ones for use in its products.
Rare earth metals are essential for many applications in the modern world, from smartphones to wind turbines and electric vehicles. Minerals used in magnets in electric motors, membranes in fuel cells for hydrogen technology, and aerospace and defence are costly. Mining them is risky and unhealthy.
China has dominated the supply of these materials for decades, but Beijing’s export restrictions and other factors have created shortages that are now affecting global economic growth and political relations worldwide. China meets 98% of the European Union’s need for rare earth magnets, while the battery materials lithium, nickel, and cobalt are also virtually exclusively imported from elsewhere.
In response to these concerns, companies are developing ways to make products without needing REEs by using alternative materials. But not all metals can be as sustainable as lutetium and the like.
Bosch believes quantum technology can help them test and identify suitable substitutes for REEs. According to Bosch’s corporate research and development head Thomas Kropf, the research collaboration will employ quantum computing to investigate whether other materials may partially or entirely replace those now used. The goal is to have results in a decade.
“This technology is on the brink of becoming real,” Stefan Hartung, chief executive of Bosch, said.
He also noted that Bosch was sharing its knowledge with IBM in modelling materials for “extremely particular application areas” in exchange for “deeper insights into the potential and applicability of quantum computing, including hardware.”
By 2025, Bosch plans to invest a total of $10 billion in digitalization and networking, with two-thirds going to new technologies with an emphasis on sustainability and mobility.