Evaluation of Novel Strategies and Processes for Separation of Rare-Earth Elements from Coal-Related Materials

Technology Partner: Los Alamos National LaboratoryAward Number: FWP-FE-810-17-FY17

Project Duration: 10/1/2017 – 9/30/2020
Total Project Value: $1,000,000

Key Technology Area: Separation Technologies

Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) has a long history in f-element chemistry and separations, as needed to support its core national-security mission. This history has resulted in unique experience in both process innovation and process implementation at a range of scales. Los Alamos will bring this unique expertise in separation of actinides/lanthanides to bear to evaluate new innovative processes in rare earth element (REE) separation from coal and coal by- products. The Los Alamos effort comprises two complementary tasks. The first task will evaluate current and enhanced actinide/lanthanide separation processes relative to identifying potential processes and strategies for REE separation from coal and coal by- products. This effort will evaluate existing actinides/ lanthanides separation approaches developed for nuclear materials and their potential application for REEs extraction; included in this will be a consideration of techno-economic evaluation of these processes and challenges related to energy intensity, selectivity, and

process complexity in the context of application to separation of lanthanides from coal-related materials. The second task will evaluate the potential of developing new processing and separation schemes based on emerging technologies. The initial phase of the project will screen the following processing approaches: (1) Processing under hydrothermal conditions; this effort builds on previous work that suggests that a better control of lanthanides speciation at elevated temperature can be exploited to perform efficient REEs separation. (2) REE-selective extraction using supercritical carbon dioxide (CO2) and soluble ligands; this effort builds on initial proof-of-concept studies on supercritical CO2 that show great promise for simple and effective separation of REE from oxide materials. (3) Separation of REE using ionic liquids, and other solvent-based systems; this effort builds on current effort at LANL to develop actinide/lanthanide separation schemes in ionic liquids.


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