Rare earth elements, known as industrial vitamins, are indispensable manufacturing materials for many high-tech equipment such as mobile phones and computers. The world’s rare earth element reserves are not abundant and unevenly distributed, and they are in a state of supply shortage for a long time. Recently, American researchers published a research report in the online edition of the Journal of Chemical Thermodynamics, stating that they have developed a method for extracting rare earth elements from industrial waste-phosphogypsum, which may ease the tight supply of rare earth elements.

USA Researchers Extract Rare Earth Elements From phosphogypsum

Phosphogypsum is a waste produced by the production of phosphoric acid from phosphate ore, which contains a large amount of rare earth elements. Researchers estimate that the phosphogypsum produced in the world each year contains about 100,000 tons of rare earth elements, which is almost the same as the total annual global production of rare earth oxides (126,000 tons). Although the global stock of phosphogypsum is huge, the stock in the United States alone exceeds 1 billion tons, but the effective utilization rate is very low. The huge amount of phosphogypsum waste not only occupies a lot of land, but also causes environmental pollution. How to effectively solve the problem of resource utilization of phosphogypsum has become a problem facing the industry.

This time, in order to test whether it is possible to extract rare earth elements from phosphogypsum, a research team composed of researchers from the Idaho National Laboratory, Rutgers University and other institutions in the United States doped phosphogypsum with yttrium, cerium, neodymium, and samarium. , Europium, and Ytterbium, and other 6 kinds of rare earth elements, and then research various options that can be used to extract rare earth elements. They found that a solution that uses a chemical mixture produced by Gluconobacter oxydans to recover rare earth elements is very effective. Gluconobacter is a common bacteria that can produce organic acids such as gluconic acid. Gluconic acid can dissolve the rare earth elements in the surrounding materials and dissolve them into the solution through a process called “biological leaching”. The precipitated rare earth elements can be used in industrial production after purification.

Researchers pointed out that conventional methods of extracting rare earth elements from ore produce toxic substances and acidic pollutants. Their new method is less harmful to the environment and is economically feasible. The world’s huge stock of phosphogypsum is a source of rare earth elements that cannot be ignored. If a new method of extracting rare earth elements from phosphogypsum can be implemented industrially, it will be sufficient to effectively alleviate the shortage of rare earth supplies in the world.

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