Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Science & Technology: Magnetic Nanoparticles Separate Rare Earth Elements from Geothermal Brine

Magnets used to extracts valuable rare earth elements from geothermal plants (domain-B)

Pete McGrail
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) laboratory fellow, Pete McGrail, and his team developed a new process to extract rare earth elements from geothermal brine using magnets and a unique nanomaterial. The new method introduces magnetic nanoparticles that have a shell made of metal organic frameworks (MOFs), into the geothermal brine.

The MOF outer layer carries molecules that are attractive to rare earth elements, causing the elements to stick to the nanoparticle. The brine is then passed through a magnetic separator to remove the nanoparticles, which are then treated to extract the attached rare earth elements. The now nanoparticle-free brine is then re-injected back underground as normal in a geothermal plant.

Using this method, PNNL test results showed a nearly perfect rare earth element extraction rate - 99.99 percent, and attractive economics overall.

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