Spectrochemical Detection and Monitoring of Rare Earth Elements During Extraction from Coal/Coal Byproducts

Technology Partner: Physical Sciences, Inc.Award Number: SC0017762

Project Duration: 6/12/2017 – 5/11/2018Total Project Value: $224,843

Key Technology Area: Enabling TechnologiesProject Partners: Calabazas Creek Research, Inc.

The aim of the proposed research is to develop a laser- induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) instrument that pushes the bounds of performance of current portable hardware and LIBS methodologies in order to monitor rare earth element (REE) recovery processes from very high concentration product to very low concentration feedstock. LIBS is a technique that lends itself well to the detection of atomic composition to parts per million levels. The method is applicable to nearly any material make-up or phase, and conducive to the generation of low cost small, portable, and continuous process monitoring systems. Specifically, LIBS is capable of monitoring all of the most important REEs (i.e., yttrium, scandium, lanthanum, cerium, praseodymium, neodymium, samarium, europium, gadolinium, terbium, dysprosium, holmium, erbium, thulium, and ytterbium) as well as important matrix elements (e.g., aluminum, calcium, iron, silicon, platinum, titanium, and vanadium). The system will be able to rapidly measure REE content of solid and solution samples within minutes and with very little

sample preparation. This project will optimize an enhanced LIBS methodology via the design, construction, and exercise of a laboratory prototype instrument and quantify the ability of the technique to monitor different REEs, at different points in the REE enrichment process, in different sample morphologies/phases, and for benchtop hardware versus the portable spectroscopic hardware envisioned for an affordable at-line diagnostic instrument. This sensor technology could enable optimized physical and chemical processes with higher efficiencies, increased REE yields, and higher REE concentration final products. Additional applications include: crude oil source fingerprinting by metals analysis, coal/ash content monitoring in slag and combustion particulates, recycling of electronic, magnetic, and nuclear waste, residual metals monitoring in catalytic processes, and process monitoring in the steel, glass, mining, magnet, lighting element and catalytic converter industries.


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