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Magnetic Separation of Rare Earth Elements

Tech ID:
Principal Investigator:
Munir Humayun
Licensing Manager:
  • Pending

Rare earth elements are vital ingredients in civil and defense technologies, the refining of which is currently not available in the U.S. Both defense considerations and the projected demand from renewable energy growth require establishing domestic refining capacity for these elements. The main limitation is not mineral resources, but the chemical refining that separates the 15+ elements of the rare earth group into high-purity elements based on unique ionic radii. Multistage separation processes involve solvent extraction or ion exchange separation, and these techniques generate significant environmental impacts from the large volumes of acids, organic solvents or resins used.  New methods explore separation efficiencies using paramagnetism. Significant savings in reagent consumption, particularly of organic solvents are anticipated.  Paramagnetic separation has the lowest environmental impact of any rare earth separation process.