Biobased Materials used to recover Rare Earth Elements

What do corn cobs and tomato peels have to do with electronics? They can both be used to recover valuable rare earth elements, like neodymium, from electronic waste.

Penn State researchers used microparticles and nanoparticles created from organic materials to capture rare earth elements from aqueous solutions.

Their findings, available online now, will also be published in the November issue of Journal of Chemical Engineering.

In this most recent paper, Sheikhi improved on the separation process demonstrated in previous work and extracted larger sample sizes of neodymium from less concentrated solutions.

Sheikhi plans to extend his separation mechanism to real-world scenarios and partner with interested industries to further test the process.

“In the near future, we want to test our process on realistic industrial samples,” Sheikhi said.

“We also hope to adjust the selectivity of the materials towards other rare earth elements and precious metals, such as gold and silver, to be able to separate them from the waste as well. »