For many rare earth ores, the percentage of the valuable heavy rare earths (in particular, terbium, europium, dysprosium, yttrium and gadolinium) in the ore is very low, making separation and recovery of these elements from the other rare earths not cost-effective. Iowa State University and Ames Laboratory researchers have developed a process that can be added on to conventional ore processing that readily separates rare earth oxalates into two streams, one containing the light rare earths (La – Sm) and the other containing heavy rare earths (Gd – Y). This one step process requires no special equipment and minimal capital investment. The process is water-based, and uses a “green” extractant to remove the heavy REEs from the light REEs.
Applications and Industries
Rare earth ore processing
Chemical separation of rare earth elements into high-value and low-value streams
Simple and fast – one-step process does not require special process equipment
Environmentally friendly – uses green extract in place of hazardous organophosphorous compounds