(452b) Rare Earth Mental Extraction from Geothermal Brine Using Nanofluids
Rare earth metals are critical materials in a wide variety of applications in generating and storing renewable energy and in designing more energy efficient devices. Extracting rare earth metals from geothermal brines is a very challenging problem due to the low concentrations of these elements and engineering challenges with traditional chemical separations methods involving packed sorbent beds or membranes that would impede large volumetric flow rates of geothermal fluids transitioning through the plant. We are demonstrating a simple and highly cost-effective nanofluid-based method for extracting rare earth metals from geothermal brines. Core-shell composite nanoparticles are produced that contain a magnetic iron oxide core surrounded by a shell made of silica or metal-organic framework (MOF) sorbent functionalized with chelating ligands selective for the rare earth elements. By introducing the nanoparticles at low concentration (â??0.05 wt%) into the geothermal brine after it passes through the plant heat exchanger, the brine is exposed to a very high concentration of chelating sites on the nanoparticles without need to pass through a large and costly traditional packed bed or membrane system where pressure drop and parasitic pumping power losses are significant issues. Instead, after a short residence time flowing with the brine, the particles are effectively separated out with an electromagnet and standard extraction methods are then applied to strip the rare earth metals from the nanoparticles, which are then recycled back to the geothermal plant. Recovery efficiency for the rare earths at ppm level has now been measured for both silica and MOF sorbents functionalized with a variety of chelating ligands. A detailed preliminary techno-economic performance analysis of extraction systems using both sorbents showed potential to generate a promising internal rate of return (IRR) up to 20%.