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Selective Chemical Separation of Rare-Earth Oxalates

Iowa State University and Ames Laboratory Critical Materials Institute researchers have developed a cost effective step that easily separates rare earth oxalates into a light rare earth stream and a heavy rare earth stream.
For many rare earth ores, the percentage of the valuable heavy rare earths (in particular, terbium, europium, dysprosium, yttrium and gadolinium) in the ore is very low, making separation and recovery of these elements from the other rare earths not cost-effective. Iowa State University and Ames Laboratory researchers have developed a process that can be added on to conventional ore processing that readily separates rare earth oxalates into two streams, one containing the light rare earths (La – Sm) and the other containing heavy rare earths (Gd – Y). This one step process requires no special equipment and minimal capital investment. The process is water-based, and uses a “green” extractant to remove the heavy REEs from the light REEs.
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