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Iowa cornfields could play a role in recycling old electronics

A new biochemical leaching process has been developed that uses corn stover as feedstock, and recovers valuable rare earth metals from electronic waste.

It’s nothing new to Iowans that corn and its byproducts can be used for high-tech applications ranging from bioplastics to ethanol. Using corn stover for what is essentially a mining process may seem like a stretch even for Iowa – the world’s biggest producer of corn—but the new process does indeed use stover as a key ingredient. The research was directed by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Critical Materials Institute (CMI) headquartered at the Ames Laboratory on the Iowa State University campus, and carried out by scientists at Idaho and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories, and Purdue University.