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Southern Research works to recover rare earth from coal ash
作者:Chinatungsten Online 时间:2016-02-24 08:35:21
Southern Research is using $1 million in federal funding to develop and test a method to extract valuable rare earth elements (REEs) from coal fly ash, the minuscule waste particles captured by anti-pollution devices in coal-fired power plants.
Southern Research’s Energy & Environment division is launching the work amid concerns about the U.S.’s near-total reliance on foreign sources for REEs, which are used in high-tech products ranging from smartphones to missile systems. At the same time, questions are emerging about the destructive environmental impact of mining for these and other elements, as well as the human toll of those mining operations in the developing world.
Southern Research scientists are focusing on the development of a plasma-based process to recover these strategically important elements from post-combustion ash originating from bituminous coal mined in the Eastern U.S. The scientists will carry out testing to eva luate two concepts for recovering REEs from coal fly ash utilizing a plasma-arc technology. The first concept involves a smelting process and the second includes element volatilization and sequential condensation.

To support its research into the recovery of REEs from coal and coal byproducts, the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) in December 2015 awarded the Birmingham-based organization $1 million in Phase 1 funding for the project. Nearly $300,000 in funding from other public and private sources complements the NETL support.
NETL is providing funding for a total of 10 projects that focus on developing cost-effective and environmentally benign methods for recovering REEs from domestic coal. NETL plans to select no more than four of these projects for about $6.5 million in Phase 2 funding, which targets technology that will lead to the economical recovery of rare earth elements at scale.
“Our innovative development work to recover rare earth elements and metals such as lithium from waste streams has the potential to deliver significant and long-lasting benefits,” said Bill Grieco, vice president of Southern Research’s Energy & Environment division. “While we are concentrating on providing a domestic source for these elements, our work could also serve to mitigate environmental problems and human rights abuses associated with the mining of these elements around the globe.”

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