Energy Department funds projects to find rare elements needed for industrial uses

Rare earth elements
Rare earth elements | Shutterstock.com
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recently selected 10 research projects as part of the Recovery of Rare Earth Elements from Coal and Coal Byproducts program, which focuses on obtaining rare earth elements (REE) from coal and coal byproducts through economical and environmentally friendly methods.

The DOE's National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) chose projects from the Battelle Memorial Institute, Duke University, Neumann Systems Group, Physical Sciences Inc., Southern Research Institute, Tusaar Inc., University of Kentucky Research Foundation, University of North Dakota, University of Wyoming and West Virginia University Research Center.

The projects develop either bench-scale or pilot-scale technology to separate and extract the REEs. The NETL funding allows the projects to perform Phase 1 research. After presenting findings and a system design, up to two bench-scale and two pilot-scale projects will be selected for Phase 2 research.

REEs are chemical elements found in the Earth's crust and consist of the 15 lanthanides, scandium and yttrium, which are difficult and costly to mine in large quantities. REEs are used in tiny amounts in technology, such as cell phones, but an iPhone uses eight REEs in its manufacture. The primary source of REEs in the world is China. With few sources of REEs and growing demand, their cost has risen. Developing economical methods of REE discovery is necessary to facilitate the production of communications systems, computers and other electronics, health care and defense technology.



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