Geo-inspired Separation of Rare-earth Elements

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Rare earth elements (REEs) are essential to the economic growth and national security of the United States, and the supply chain of these critical minerals becomes increasingly vulnerable to disruptions. To effectively exploit secondary sources of REEs, we must learn about the localized environment of REEs in these sources and enable enhanced recovery and separation approaches optimized across a variety of REEs and sources.

Our project will provide a fundamental understanding of spatio-chemical environment, speciation, and selective adsorption of rare earth elements in ionic adsorption clays, and electrostatic interactions with their immediate environment. This fundamental knowledge will provide a basis for establishing novel enhanced separations and recovery approaches. This effort brings together cutting-edge theory, synthesis, and characterization capabilities afforded by Liquid Phase Scanning Transmission Electron Microscopy (LP S/TEM), Atom Probe Tomography (APT), and synchrotron-based spectroscopy, to gain a fundamental understanding of spatio-chemical environment, electrostatic interactions, speciation, and retention of REEs in ionic adsorption clays. The research team includes researchers from Ames Lab, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and the University of Alabama. 

This work is supported by the US Department of Energy, Office of Science, Basic Energy Sciences, Division of Chemical, Sciences, Geosciences, and Biological Sciences through a Critical Minerals & Materials project. Ames Laboratory is operated by Iowa State University under Contract DE-AC02-07CH11338.

Principal Investigator: Tanya Prozorov

Co-PIs (Ames Laboratory): Jared Anderson, James Evans, Igor Slowing, Theresa Windus

Co-PI (University of Alabama): Alberto Perez-Huerta

Co-PI (Pacific Northwest National Laboratory): Shawn Kathmann