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  1. Leaching behavior of rare earth elements in Fort Union lignite coals of North America

    Rare earth elements are crucial materials in an incredible array of consumer goods, energy system components and military defense applications. However, the global production and entire value chain for rare earth elements is dominated by China, with the U.S. currently 100% import reliant for these critical materials. Traditional mineral ores including those previously mined in the U.S., however, have several challenges. Chief among these is that the content of the most critical and valuable of the rare earths are deficient, making mining uneconomical. Further, the supply of these most critical rare earths is nearly 100% produced in China from amore » single resource that is only projected to last another 10 to 20 years. The U.S. currently considers the rare earths market an issue of national security. It is imperative that alternative domestic sources of rare earths be identified and methods developed to produce them. Recently, coal and coal byproducts have been identified as one of these promising alternative resources. This paper details the results of a study on characterization of North Dakota lignite and lignite-related feedstocks as an assessment of their feasibility for rare earth element recovery. The abundance, distribution and modes of occurrence of the rare earth elements in the samples collected were determined in this initial study to inform the selection of appropriate extraction and concentration methods to recover the rare earth elements. Materials investigated include the lignite coals, clay-rich sediments associated with the coal seams, and materials associated with a lignite beneficiation system and power plant. The results show that high rare earth element levels exist both in lignite coals and associated sediments. The form of the rare earth elements in the clay materials is primarily as ultra-fine mineral grains. In the lignite coals, approximately 80-95% of the rare earths content is organically associated, primarily as coordination complexes.« less
  2. Transformation enabled nitride magnets absent rare earths and a process of making the same

    A process for producing an ordered martensitic iron nitride powder that is suitable for use as a permanent magnetic material is provided. The process includes fabricating an iron alloy powder having a desired composition and uniformity; nitriding the iron alloy powder by contacting the material with a nitrogen source in a fluidized bed reactor to produce a nitride iron powder; transforming the nitride iron powder to a disordered martensitic phase; annealing the disordered martensitic phase to an ordered martensitic phase; and separating the ordered martensitic phase from the iron nitride powder to yield an ordered martensitic iron nitride powder.
  3. Analysis of Rare Earth Elements in Uranium Using Handheld Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (HH LIBS)

    In this paper, a portable handheld laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (HH LIBS) instrument was evaluated as a rapid method to qualitatively analyze rare earth elements in a uranium oxide matrix. This research is motivated by the need for development of a method to perform rapid, at-line chemical analysis in a nuclear facility, particularly to provide a rapid first pass analysis to determine if additional actions or measurements are warranted. This will result in the minimization of handling and transport of radiological and nuclear material and subsequent exposure to their associated hazards. In this work, rare earth elements (Eu, Nd, and Yb)more » were quantitatively spiked into a uranium oxide powder and analyzed by the HH LIBS instrumentation. This method demonstrates the ability to rapidly identify elemental constituents in sub-percent levels in a uranium matrix. Preliminary limits of detection (LODs) were determined with values on the order of hundredths of a percent. Validity of this methodology was explored by employing a National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) standard reference materials (SRM) 610 and 612 (Trace Elements in Glass). Finally, it was determined that the HH LIBS method was able to clearly discern the rare earths elements of interest in the glass or uranium matrices.« less
  4. Rare earth metal-containing ionic liquids

    As an innovative tool, ionic liquids (ILs) are widely employed as an alternative, smart, reaction media (vs. traditional solvents) offering interesting technology solutions for dissolving, processing and recycling of metal-containing materials. The costly mining and refining of rare earths (RE), combined with increasing demand for high-tech and energy-related applications around the world, urgently requires effective approaches to improve the efficiency of rare earth separation and recovery. In this context, ionic liquids appear as an attractive technology solution. Finally, this paper addresses the structural and coordination chemistry of ionic liquids comprising rare earth metals with the aim to add to understandingmore » prospects of ionic liquids in the chemistry of rare earths.« less
  5. Development and Optimization of Voltammetric Methods for Real Time Analysis of Electrorefiner Salt with High Concentrations of Actinides and Fission Products

    This project addresses the problem of achieving accurate material control and accountability (MC&A) around pyroprocessing electrorefiner systems. Spent nuclear fuel pyroprocessing poses a unique challenge with respect to reprocessing technology in that the fuel is never fully dissolved in the process fluid. In this case, the process fluid is molten, anhydrous LiCl-KCl salt. Therefore, there is no traditional input accountability tank. However, electrorefiners (ER) accumulate very large quantities of fissile nuclear material (including plutonium) and should be well safeguarded in a commercial facility. Idaho National Laboratory (INL) currently operates a pyroprocessing facility for treatment of spent fuel from Experimental Breedermore » Reactor-II with two such ER systems. INL implements MC&A via a mass tracking model in combination with periodic sampling of the salt and other materials followed by destructive analysis. This approach is projected to be insufficient to meet international safeguards timeliness requirements. A real time or near real time monitoring method is, thus, direly needed to support commercialization of pyroprocessing. A variety of approaches to achieving real time monitoring for ER salt have been proposed and studied to date—including a potentiometric actinide sensor for concentration measurements, a double bubbler for salt depth and density measurements, and laser induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) for concentration measurements. While each of these methods shows some promise, each also involves substantial technical complexity that may ultimately limit their implementation. Yet another alternative is voltammetry—a very simple method in theory that has previously been tested for this application to a limited extent. The equipment for a voltammetry system consists of off-the-shelf components (three electrodes and a potentiostat), which results in substantial benefits relative to cost and robustness. Based on prior knowledge of electrochemical reduction potentials for each of the species of interest, voltammetry can be used to quantify concentrations of a variety of elemental species—including uranium, plutonium, minor actinides, and rare earths. Various methods have been tested by other researchers to date—including cyclic voltammetry, square wave voltammetry, normal pulse voltammetry, etc. In most cases, it has been observed that there is a very limited concentration range for which the output can be readily correlated with concentration in the salt. Furthermore, testing to date has been limited to simple ternary salts with only a single element being quantified. While incomplete for application to MC&A for pyroprocessing, these results lead us to believe that voltammetry can be optimized based on salt properties and fundamental electrochemical rate processes to yield a highly accurate and robust method. This project is divided into four tasks jointly executed by three university research groups. This includes experimental measurement of key physical data on the systems of interest, development of a predictive voltammetry model, experimental validation of the voltammetry model, and design/verification of an optimized measurement method. This project supports the goals of the US-ROK Joint Fuel Cycle Study in addition to the NA-24 Office of the National Nuclear Security Agency and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).« less
  6. Stability of the 1144 phase in iron pnictides

    A series of iron arsenides (e.g., CaRbFe 4As 4, SrCsFe 4As 4) have been discovered recently, and have provoked a rise in superconductor searches in a different phase, known as the 1144 phase. For the presence of various chemical substitutions, it is believed that more 1144 compounds remain to be discovered. Here in this work, we perform general model analysis as well as scenario calculation on a basis of density functional theory to investigate phase stability in a variety of compounds. We predict that the 1144-type phase could be stabilized in EuKFe 4As 4, EuRbFe 4As 4, EuCsFe 4As 4,more » CaCsFe 4P 4, SrCsFe 4P 4, BaCsFe 4P 4, InCaFe 4As 4, InSrFe 4As 4, etc. Remarkably, it involves rare earths, trivalence elements (e.g., indium) and iron phosphides, which greatly expands the range of its existence and suggests a promising prospect for experimental synthesis. In addition, we find that the formation of many random doping compounds (e.g., Ba 0.5Cs 0.5Fe 2As 2, Ba 0.5 Rb 0.5Fe 2As 2) is driven by entropy and could be annealed to a 1144-type phase. Eventually, we plot a phase diagram about two structural factors Δa and Δc, giving a bird's-eye view of stability of various 1144 compounds.« less
  7. Rare earth niobate coordination polymers

    Rare-earth (RE) coordination polymers are infinitely tailorable to yield luminescent materials for various applications. In this paper we described the synthesis of a heterometallic rare-earth coordination compound ((CH 3) 2SO) 3(RE)NbO(C 2O 4) 3 ((CH 3) 2SO) = dimethylsulfoxide, DMSO, (C 2O 2 = oxalate), (RE=La, Ce, Pr, Nd, Sm, Eu, Gd, Tb). The structure was obtained from single crystal X-ray diffraction of the La analogue. The Nb =O and DMSO terminal-bonding character guides assembly of an open framework structure with noncentrosymmetric RE-coordination geometry, and large spacing between the RE centers. A second structure was observed by PXRD for themore » smaller rare earths (Dy, Ho, Er, Yb); this structure has not yet been determined. The materials were further characterized using FTIR, and photoluminescence measurements. Characteristic excitation and emission transitions were observed for RE = Nd, Sm, Eu, and Tb. Quantum yield (QY) measurements were performed by exciting Eu and Tb analoges at 394 nm (QY 66%) and 464 nm (QY 71%) for Eu; and 370 nm (QY=40%) for Tb. Finally, we attribute the high QY and bright luminescence to two main structure-function properties of the system; namely the absence of water in the structure, and absence of concentration quenching.« less
  8. Towards resolving the Rare Earth Crisis: Acquiring thermodynamic data required for modelling of the formation of Th-bearing monazites

    This report describes the Rare Earth Crisis and the effect of rare earth elements.
  9. The ultimate mineral processing challenge: Recovery of rare earths, phosphorus and uranium from Florida phosphatic clay

    We report phosphate beneficiation in Florida generates more than one tonne of phosphatic clay, or slime, per tonne of phosphate rock produced. Since the start of the practice of large-scale washing and desliming for phosphate beneficiation, more than 2 Gt of slime has accumulated, containing approximately 600 Mt of phosphate rock, 600 kt of rare earth elements (REEs) and 80 million kilograms of uranium. The recovery of these valuable elements from the phosphatic clay is one of the most challenging endeavors in mineral processing, because the clay is extremely dilute, with an average solids concentration of 3 percent, and finemore » in size, with more than 50 percent having particle size smaller than 2 μm, and it contains nearly 50 percent clay minerals as well as large amounts of magnesium, iron and aluminum. With industry support and under funding from the Critical Materials Institute, the Florida Industrial and Phosphate Research Institute in conjunction with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory undertook the task to recover phosphorus, rare earths and uranium from Florida phosphatic clay. This paper presents the results from the preliminary testing of two approaches. The first approach involves three-stage cycloning using cyclones with diameters of 12.4 cm (5 in.), 5.08 cm (2 in.) and 2.54 cm (1 in.), respectively, to remove clay minerals followed by flotation and leaching. The second approach is a two-step leaching process. In the first step, selective leaching was conducted to remove magnesium, thus allowing the production of phosphoric acid suitable for the manufacture of diammonium phosphate (DAP) in the second leaching step. The results showed that multistage cycloning with small cyclones is necessary to remove clay minerals. Finally, selective leaching at about pH 3.2 using sulfuric acid was found to be effective for removing more than 80 percent of magnesium from the feed with minimal loss of phosphorus.« less
  10. Determination of Rare Earths in Geothermal Brines and Evaluation of Potential Extraction Techniques

    Summary final report for research initiated but not finished.

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