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E-waste Recycling August 19, 2019 08:30:11 AM

Modern System to Extract Rare Earths from E-Waste to be Scaled-Up

Paul Ploumis
ScrapMonster Author
The new process results in elimination of Fe components and recovery of rare earths alone.

Modern System to Extract Rare Earths from E-Waste to be Scaled-Up

SEATTLE (Scrap Monster): The unique process developed by the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) to recover rare earth elements from electronic waste now waits further scaling up. The researchers at DOE have already partnered with colleagues at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory to scale up the process. The innovative process extracts rare earth minerals from the scrapped magnets of used hard disk drives and other electronic items.

The magnets are dissolved in nitric acid. This solution is continuously fed through a module that supports polymer membranes. The membranes that contain porous hollow fibres with an extractant forms a selective barrier that allows only rare earth minerals to pass through. The rare-earth rich solution collected on the other side of the membrane is further processed, which results in generation of rare earth oxides with purities exceeding 99.5%.

The new process results in elimination of Fe components and recovery of rare earths alone. Consequently, the mechanism results in less waste being created, when compared with other mechanisms in use today.

Ramesh Bhave of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, in a statement, noted that the process to recover high-value critical materials in highly energy-efficient, cost-effective and environment-friendly and is a significant improvement over traditional processes.

In the next phase, the program will explore whether the underlying process for separating rare earths can be developed for separating elements such as lithium and cobalt from lithium-ion batteries.

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