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The DOE Science News Source is a Newswise initiative to promote research news from the Office of Science of the DOE to the public and news media.
  • 2017-11-21 16:00:48
  • Article ID: 685611

Kentucky Researchers First to Produce High Grade Rare Earths From Coal

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Nov. 21, 2017)  University of Kentucky researchers have produced nearly pure rare earth concentrates from Kentucky coal using an environmentally-conscious and cost-effective process, a groundbreaking accomplishment in the energy industry.

"As far as I know, our team is the first in the world to have provided a 98 percent pure rare earth concentrate from a coal source," said Rick Honaker, professor of mining engineering.

From national defense to health care, rare earth elements or REEs are essential components of technologies like iPhones, computers, missiles and other applications. Interest in REEs is at an all-time high in the U.S. right now, with the Department of Energy investing millions in research. Honaker has received $7 million from the department to produce rare earths from Kentucky coal sources, a feat he has now accomplished, and $1 million for other REE projects.

"The primary objective for our DoE (Department of Energy) project was to produce a concentrate containing a minimum of 2 percent rare earth elements," he said. "We have far exceeded this objective."

The process recovered more than 80 percent of the REEs present in the feed sources. The concentrates were comprised of more than 80 percent total rare earth elements on a dry whole mass basis and more than 98 percent rare earth oxides. More importantly, critical elements such as neodymium and yttrium — used in national defense technologies and the high-tech and renewable energy industries — represented over 45 percent of the total concentrate.

Another unique feature of the new recovery process is that scandium — a highly valued rare earth element used for aerospace, lighting and other applications — was efficiently separated from the other rare elements and concentrated as a separate product from the circuit.

The achievement was made possible using a patent pending process developed by Honaker and Wencai Zhang and with funding provided by a U.S. Department of Energy Cooperative Agreement.

“Our novel rare earth recovery process is low cost and more environmentally friendly than alternative technologies, such as solvent extraction," Honaker said.

The process will be part of a one-fourth-tph (tons per hour) mobile rare earth recovery pilot scale plant being developed and tested by Honaker’s research team as part of the U.S. Department of Energy project.

"We are excited about the new development and look forward to testing the process in our pilot-scale facility which will be operational during spring 2018."

UK is the University for Kentucky. At UK, we are educating more students, treating more patients with complex illnesses and conducting more research and service than at any time in our 150-year history. To read more about the UK story and how you can support continued investment in your university and the Commonwealth, go to: uky.edu/uk4ky. #uk4ky #seeblue

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Researchers Achieve HD Video Streaming at 10,000 Times Lower Power

Engineers at the University of Washington have developed a new HD video streaming method that doesn't need to be plugged in. Their prototype skips the power-hungry components and has something else, like a smartphone, process the video instead.

Lawrence Livermore Issues Combined State-by-State Energy and Water Use Flow Charts

For the first time, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) has issued state-by-state energy and water flow charts in one location so that analysts and policymakers can find all the information they need in one place.

Battery's Hidden Layer Revealed

An international team led by Argonne National Laboratory makes breakthrough in understanding the chemistry of the microscopically thin layer that forms between the liquid electrolyte and solid electrode in lithium-ion batteries. The results are being used in improving the layer and better predicting battery lifetime.

Ramp Compression of Iron Provides Insight into Core Conditions of Large Rocky Exoplanets

A team of researchers from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), Princeton University, Johns Hopkins University and the University of Rochester have provided the first experimentally based mass-radius relationship for a hypothetical pure iron planet at super-Earth core conditions. This discovery can be used to evaluate plausible compositional space for large, rocky exoplanets, forming the basis of future planetary interior models, which in turn can be used to more accurately interpret observation data from the Kepler space mission and aid in identifying planets suitable for habitability.

Getting Magnesium Ions to Pick Up the Pace

Magnesium ions move very fast to enable a new class of battery materials.

Valleytronics Discovery Could Extend Limits of Moore's Law

Research appearing today in Nature Communications finds useful new information-handling potential in samples of tin(II) sulfide (SnS), a candidate "valleytronics" transistor material that might one day enable chipmakers to pack more computing power onto microchips. 

Scientists Use Machine Learning to Speed Discovery of Metallic Glass

SLAC and its collaborators are transforming the way new materials are discovered. In a new report, they combine artificial intelligence and accelerated experiments to discover potential alternatives to steel in a fraction of the time.

Seeing How Next-Generation Batteries Power-Up

Scientists directly see how the atoms in a magnesium-based battery fit into the structure of electrodes.

A Heavyweight Solution for Lighter-Weight Combat Vehicles

Researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have developed and successfully tested a novel process - called Friction Stir Dovetailing - that joins thick plates of aluminum to steel. The new process will be used to make lighter-weight military vehicles that are more agile and fuel efficient.

How to Turn Light Into Atomic Vibrations

Converting laser light into nuclear vibrations is key to switching a material's properties on and off for future electronics.


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Five Leading Liberal Arts Colleges Partner to Create New Solar Energy Facility in Maine

Amherst, Bowdoin, Hampshire, Smith and Williams colleges have formed a partnership that will allow them to offset 46,000 megawatt hours per year of their collective electrical needs--enough to power 5,000 New England homes--with electricity created at a solar power facility to be built in Maine.

Argonne Selects Innovators From Across Nation to Grow Startups

Argonne announces second cohort of Chain Reaction Innovations.

Brookhaven Lab Materials Physicist Yimei Zhu Receives 2018 Distinguished Scientist Award from the Microscopy Society of America

How do complex atomic and electronic interactions impact material properties? Using electron microscopy instrumentation and methods he developed, Yimei Zhu has been investigating this question for the past 30 years. The Microscopy Society of America is now recognizing his contributions.

SLAC Produces First Electron Beam with Superconducting Electron Gun

Accelerator scientists at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory are testing a new type of electron gun for a future generation of instruments that take snapshots of the atomic world in never-before-seen quality and detail, with applications in chemistry, biology, energy and materials science.

U.S., India Sign Agreement Providing for Neutrino Physics Collaboration at Fermilab and in India

Earlier today, April 16, 2018, U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry and India's Atomic Energy Secretary Dr. Sekhar Basu signed an agreement in New Delhi to expand the two countries' collaboration on world-leading science and technology projects. It opens the way for jointly advancing cutting-edge neutrino science projects under way in both countries: the Long-Baseline Neutrino Facility (LBNF) with the international Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE) hosted at the U.S. Department of Energy's Fermilab and the India-based Neutrino Observatory (INO).

Nanomaterials Expert Ganpati Ramanath Named Fellow of Materials Research Society

Nanomaterials expert Ganpati Ramanath, the John Tod Horton '52 Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, has been named a fellow of the Materials Research Society (MRS) "for developing creative approaches to realize new nanomaterials via chemically directed nanostructure synthesis and assembly and for tailoring interfaces in electronics and energy applications using molecular nanolayers."

Doing the Neutron Dance

Two materials scientists, Suzanne te Velthuis and Stephan Rosenkranz, have been named fellows of the Neutron Scattering Society of America (NSSA).

Hirohisa Tanaka Joins SLAC to Push Limits of Neutrino Physics

Accomplished neutrino physicist Hirohisa Tanaka has joined the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory as a professor of particle physics and astrophysics. He oversees a group at the lab that is preparing for research with the future Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE) at the Long-Baseline Neutrino Facility (LBNF). The experiment will give scientists unprecedented opportunities to learn more about neutrinos - fundamental particles with mysterious properties that could play crucial roles in the evolution of the universe.

University Teams to Compete in Department of Energy's 2018 National Cyber Defense Competition

The U.S. Department of Energy is proud to announce the 29 university teams selected to compete in the third annual Cyber Defense Competition (CDC), taking place April 6-7, 2018.


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Getting Magnesium Ions to Pick Up the Pace

Magnesium ions move very fast to enable a new class of battery materials.

Seeing How Next-Generation Batteries Power-Up

Scientists directly see how the atoms in a magnesium-based battery fit into the structure of electrodes.

Worm-Inspired Tough Materials

Scientists mimic a worm's lethal jaw to design and form resilient materials.

How to Turn Light Into Atomic Vibrations

Converting laser light into nuclear vibrations is key to switching a material's properties on and off for future electronics.

Superacids Are Good Medicine for Super Thin Semiconductors

Scientists demonstrated that powerful acids heal certain structural defects in synthetic films.

Tubular Science Improves Polymer Solar Cells

Novel engineered polymers assemble buckyballs into columns using a conventional coating process.

Fast! Hard X-Ray Flash Breaks Speed Record

Lasting just a few hundred billionths of a billionth of a second, these bursts offer new tool to study chemistry and magnetism.

Scientists Have Overestimated Meteor Sizes

First demonstration of high-pressure metastability mapping with ultrafast X-ray diffraction shows objects aren't as large as previously thought.

Rewriting Resistance: Genetic Changes Increase Crops' Biomass and Sugar Release

Using genetic engineering, scientists improve biomass growth and conversion in woody and grassy feedstocks.

Measuring the Glow of Plants From Below

Novel observations suggest a great potential of measuring global gross primary production via solar-induced fluorescence.


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