Rare Earth Elements Recovery from Coal Ash

Industry: Energy generation

A new technology developed at Georgia TEch can extract rare earth elements from coal fly ash, a byproduct of coal combustion used to generate electricity.

Rare earth elements (REEs) are critical metals used in clean energy technology and high-tech manufacturing, but their global supply is dominated by China. The project proposes using coal fly ash as an alternative source of REEs, due to its large available domestic supply.

Traditional methods of extracting REEs from coal fly ash are energy- and material-intensive, and they use highly corrosive strong acids, which harm the environment. This novel extraction method uses task-specific ionic liquids, which selectively extract REEs from coal fly ash without substantially degrading solids from the ash.

The feasibility of this new technology has been demonstrated at the bench scale with several CFA samples from industry partners. Further, the new method can be reused over multiple cycles without any loss of performance.

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