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Rare Earth Element reCYCLing with Low harmful Emissions (REE-CYCLE)
Start date: Jul 1, 2013, End date: Jun 30, 2018 PROJECT  FINISHED 

"It is a matter of strategic independence for Europe to urgently find processes taking into account environmental and economic issues, when mining and recycling rare earths. Currently THERE ARE NO SUCH INDUSTRIAL PROCESS AVAILABLE and 0% WASTE RECYCLING of RARE EARTH ELEMENTS (REE). Plus, 97% of the mining operations are performed in China, hence representing a major Sword of Damoclès for the rest of the world’s economy.We propose to develop a new, cost effective and environmentally friendly REE recycling process. We will achieve this: (i) by enabling, for the first time ever, the fast measurement of free energy of mass transfer between complex fluids; hence it will now be possible to explore an extensive number of process formulations and phase diagrams (such a study usually takes years but will then be performed in a matter of days); (ii) develop predictive models of ion separation including the effect of long-range interactions between metal cations and micelles; (iii) by using the experimental results and prediction tools developed, to design an advanced & environmentally friendly process formulations and pilot plant; (iv) by enhancing the extraction kinetics and selectivity, by implementing a new, innovative and selective triggering cation exchange process step (ca. the exchange kinetics of a cation will be greatly enhance when compared to another one). This will represent a major breakthrough in the field of transfer methods between complex fluids.An expected direct consequence of REE-CYCLE will be that acids’ volumes and other harmful process wastes, will be reduced by one to two orders of magnitude. Furthermore, this new understanding of mechanisms involved in selective ion transfer should open new recycling possibilities and pave the way to economical recovery of metals from a very rapidly growing “mine”, i.e. the diverse metal containing “wastes” generated by used Li-ion batteries, super-capacitors, supported catalysts and fuel cells."
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