(744g) Enrichment of Rare Earth Elements from Coal and Coal By-Products By Physical Separations
Rare earth elements (REEs) are important elements used in a variety of high-technology products and thus play a critical role in economic growth and national security. To diversify the supply chain of these critical materials, the U.S. Department of Energy National Energy Technology Laboratory is investigating technologies and processes for the recovery of REEs from America’s vast coal resources. In this work, size, density and electromagnetic separations of various coal and coal by-product samples were carried out to investigate the feasibility of using these physical separation methods for REE enrichment. The samples include fly ash, bottom ash, clean coal, coal refuse and clay. Samples were analyzed using ICP-MS, ICP-OES, TGA and CHNS methods. Preliminary results indicate that the REE contents in fly ash generally increase as the ash particle size decrease and REEs are enriched in the non-magnetic fractions. The results also suggest that density separation is the most effective method for REE enrichment compared with other methods tested in this work. The combination of these physical separation methods would be beneficial and are being further pursued in this research.