CMI Project 1.2.14: Enhanced separation of critical materials

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Santa Jansone-Popova at Oak Ridge National Laboratory leads the CMI project "Enhanced separation of critical materials"

Separation of individual rare earth elements (REE) is regarded as the most difficult processing step in the production of high purity rare earth oxides for end-use technology applications due to their inherent chemical similarities. The current state-of-the-art for industrial REE separations utilizes solvent extraction with phosphonic acids, a complex process notorious for its excessive chemical consumption, wastewater effluents, and hundreds of processing steps required to produce individual purified REE. This project seeks to enable domestic REE production by providing economically viable and environmentally sustainable alternatives for REE separations using novel separation technologies that significantly reduce capital and operating costs.

Kevin Lyon, an INL chemical engineer with expertise in applied solvent extraction, operates a counter-current solvent extraction system for testing and developing the process design for the separation technology. Credit: INL, U.S. Dept. of Energy
Kevin Lyon, an INL chemical engineer with expertise in applied solvent extraction, operates a counter-current solvent extraction system for testing and developing the process design for the separation technology. Credit: INL, U.S. Dept. of Energy

 

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Santa Jansone-Popova, left, and Ilja Popovs quantify rare-earth element concentrations in liquid samples using a spectroscopy instrument. Credit: Genevieve Martin/ORNL, U.S. Dept. of Energy