Doe Science news source
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: #uk4ky #seeblue

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Graphene Oxide Nanosheets Could Help Bring Lithium-Metal Batteries to Market

Lithium-metal batteries -- which can hold up to 10 times more charge than the lithium-ion batteries that currently power our phones, laptops and cars -- haven't been commercialized because of a fatal flaw: as these batteries charge and discharge, lithium is deposited unevenly on the electrodes. This buildup cuts the lives of these batteries too short to make them viable, and more importantly, can cause the batteries to short-circuit and catch fire.

United States Department of Energy to Host Multi-Laboratory Cyber Defense Competition

In less than one month, over a hundred college students from across the United States will convene in one of the largest cyber defense competitions in the nation. The event, hosted by the U.S. Department of Energy, will take place on April 6-7, 2018. This event will be simultaneously hosted across three of the Department's national laboratories: Argonne, Oak Ridge and Pacific Northwest. The completion challenges students to respond to a scenario based on a real-world challenge of vital importance: protecting the Nation's energy critical infrastructure from the cyber threat.

Diamonds From the Deep: Study Suggests Water May Exist in Earth's Lower Mantle

A new study, which included experiments at Berkeley Lab, suggests that water may be more common than expected at extreme depths approaching 400 miles and possibly beyond - within Earth's lower mantle. The study explored microscopic pockets of a trapped form of crystallized water molecules in a sampling of diamonds.

Data Dive: How Microbes Handle Poor Nutrition in Tropical Soil

High-performance computing reveals the relationship between DNA and phosphorous uptake.

The Secret Lives of Cells

Supercomputer simulations predict how E. coli adapts to environmental stresses.

The Element of Surprise

In a new study from the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory and the University of Lille in France, chemists have explored protactinium's multiple resemblances to more completely understand the relationship between the transition metals and the complex chemistry of the early actinide elements.

Chemists use abundant, low-cost and non-toxic elements to synthesize semiconductors

Javier Vela of Iowa State University and the Ames Laboratory has worked with two of his graduate students to synthesize a new material for semiconductors. The chemists think the material will work well in solar cells, but without the toxicity, scarcity or costs of other semiconductors.

Turbocharging Fuel Cells with a Multifunctional Catalyst

Zero-emissions cars zipping into a sustainable energy future are just one dream powered by fuel cells. But cell technology has been a little sluggish and fuel prohibitively pricey. This new catalyst could offer a game changer. And there are more developments to come.

Researchers Develop Spectroscopic Thermometer for Nanomaterials

A scientific team led by the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory has found a new way to take the local temperature of a material from an area about a billionth of a meter wide, or approximately 100,000 times thinner than a human hair.

Predicting a New Phase of Superionic Ice

Researchers bring extreme conditions to a supercomputer and discover new insights about our solar system and beyond.

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Jefferson Lab Announces New Accelerator Science Leader

The Department of Energy's Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility has announced that Andrei Seryi will become its new associate director for accelerator operations, research and development in June.

First Plasma for New Machine to Study Puzzling Process That Occurs Throughout the Universe

Announcement describes completion of construction of FLARE, a powerful new machine to study magnetic reconnection.

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Professor Jian Sun Receives Power Electronics Achievement Award

Jian Sun, professor of electrical, computer, and systems engineering and director the New York State Center for Future Energy Systems at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, received the 2017 R. David Middlebrook Outstanding Achievement Award from the IEEE Power Electronics Society (PELS). He was recognized for "contributions to modeling and control of power electronic converters and systems."

FGC Plasma Solutions Wins Top NASA Innovation Award

Argonne Chain Reaction Innovator Felipe Gomez del Campo has received the 2018 NASA iTech award for X-Factor Innovation.

Sandia Researcher Jacqueline Chen Elected to National Academy of Engineering

LIVERMORE, Calif. -- Jacqueline Chen, a distinguished member of the technical staff at Sandia National Laboratories, has been elected to the National Academy of Engineering. Chen is among the 99 new members from around the globe in the 2018 class.Election to the National Academy of Engineering is the highest professional distinction for an engineer in the United States.

PNNL Helps Form International Energy Storage Organization

News Release DALIAN, China -- Energy storage allows power operators across the nation to balance electricity supply and demand instantaneously, affording ratepayers a more resilient power supply.Now the focus on energy storage is global. In January, energy storage experts at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory joined forces with their counterparts around the world to forge the International Coalition for Energy Storage and Innovation, or ICESI.

University Partnership to Help Nevada Scientists Commercialize Discovery

UNLV's Office of Technology Transfer and the Desert Research are partnering to help faculty and students leverage each other's talent and resources to transform inventionsĀ into new products and services.

DOE Seeks Industry Partners for HPC Research on Materials in Applied Energy Technologies

The Department of Energy (DOE) today announced a funding opportunity totaling $3 million to support projects between U.S. industry and DOE national laboratories related to improving materials in severe or complex environments through the new High Performance Computing for Materials in Applied Energy Technologies (HPC4Mtls) Program.

Secretary of Energy Rick Perry Announces $30 Million for Small Business Research and Development Grants

Today, U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry announced that the Department of Energy (DOE) will award 179 grants totaling $30 million to 149 small businesses in 36 states.

Microgrid Coming to Northern California Airport

Designed by the Schatz Energy Research Center at Humboldt State University, the microgrid will generate green electricity, create jobs for local contractors and technicians, and provide an energy lifeline in the event of a natural disaster.

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Unlocking On-Package Memory's Effects on High-Performance Computing's Scientific Kernels

Intuitive visual analytical model better explains complex architectural scenarios and offers general design principles.

Data Dive: How Microbes Handle Poor Nutrition in Tropical Soil

High-performance computing reveals the relationship between DNA and phosphorous uptake.

The Secret Lives of Cells

Supercomputer simulations predict how E. coli adapts to environmental stresses.

It's Not Part of the Problem, but Part of the Solution

Americium(III) is selectively and efficiently separated from europium(III) by an extractant in an ionic liquid.

Buckyball Marries Graphene

Electronic and structure richness arise from the merger of semiconducting molecules of carbon buckyballs and 2-D graphene.

Atomic Movies Explain Why Perovskite Solar Cells Are More Efficient

Tracking atoms is crucial to improving the efficiency of next-generation perovskite solar cells.

Catalysts: High Performance Lies on the Edge

Iron may be more valuable than platinum. Sometimes.

Discovery of a New Microbe that Produces Methane in Oxygenated Soils

Global models may be underestimating net wetland methane emissions.

Researchers Decipher the Structure of a Bacterial Microcompartment

The geometric complexities uncovered provide insights into how these mini-organs get assembled, potentially of interest for fuel production.

CUORE Constrains Neutrino Properties

The CUORE experiment set the tightest limits yet on the rare decay of tellurium-130, providing insights into the nature of neutrinos.


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