From INL: “Reverse mining: Scientists extract rare earth materials from consumer products”

INL Labs

Idaho National Laboratory

March 7, 2013
Nicole Stricker

“In a new twist on the state’s mining history, a group of Idaho scientists will soon be crushing consumer electronics rather than rocks in a quest to recover precious materials.

So-called rare earth elements are deeply embedded in everything from fluorescent light bulbs to smartphones — and they’re critical for electric vehicles, wind turbines and solar panels. Because these materials are subject to supply disruptions, the U.S. Department of Energy is investing in solutions to potential domestic shortages.

INL scientists will use expertise from recycling nuclear fuel to support the Critical Materials Innovation Hub. The national effort led by DOE’s Ames Laboratory is working to secure the supply of rare earth metals and other energy-critical materials.

Idaho National Laboratory scientists will contribute to that effort with expertise from recycling fissionable material from used nuclear fuel rods. They’ll now apply similar principles to separate rare earth metals and other critical materials from crushed consumer products. The work could also help improve extraction from the mining process.

‘We think of electronics as being a different kind of ore,’ says Eric Peterson, the business line lead for INL’s Process Science & Technology division. ‘Today’s consumer recycling efforts recover about 40 to 50 percent of the critical materials. Our goal is to get that to more like 80 percent recovery.'”

Scott Herbst helps lead the INL scientists studying ways to recycle rare earth and other critical elements from discarded electronics.

This is very important work. Other countries have the richest deposits of unmined rare earths. Some of these countries routinely manipulate the world supply. INL is hoping to help shield the U.S. from such tomfoolery. Always be sure to properly recycle discarded items such as those noted at the beginning of the article. See the full article here.

INL Campus

In operation since 1949, INL is a science-based, applied engineering national laboratory dedicated to supporting the U.S. Department of Energy’s missions in nuclear and energy research, science, and national defense. INL is operated for the Department of Energy (DOE) by Battelle Energy Alliance (BEA) and partners, each providing unique educational, management, research and scientific assets into a world-class national laboratory.