The Idaho National Laboratory in the US is Researching a New Technique for Extracting Transition Metals and Rare Earth Elements from Waste

By Anshula Mandaokar, 09 January, 2023

This economical and environmentally friendly method uses the gaseous compound dimethyl ether to minimize the energy and material consumption associated with the extraction of rare earth elements. Dimethyl ether, one of the first commercialized refrigerants, is used in the new technique.

In order to extract transition metals and rare earth elements from magnet wastes, the compound drives fractional crystallization, a process that separates chemical compounds based on their solubility. An old magnet that is no longer useful is cut and crushed into shavings to begin this procedure. The liquid used to extract metals from a substance, lixiviants, is then added to the magnet shavings. After the desired metals have been leached from the material into the liquid, a treatment process is applied.

Compared to conventional procedures, which are frequently carried out at extremely high temperatures, the dimethyl ether-driven process requires far less pressure and energy. On the other hand, fractional crystallization can occur at room temperature and only needs slightly higher pressures of around five atmospheres. A 12-ounce can of unopened soda has a pressure of 3.5 atmospheres. These reduced energy and pressure demands also result in cost savings.

Alternative to LPG (Liquefied Petroleum Gas)

To fulfill the increased demand for the fuel used for cooking in homes, the Oil Minister, HS Puri, suggested blending renewable Dimethyl Ether (DME) in liquefied petroleum gas (LPG).

The Minister stated in his opening statement at the World LPG Week 2022, "As LPG requirements are increasing, it would be a tremendous step forward if the sector works together on renewable LPG or blending renewable DME in LPG by creating the correct technology and scaling up the model."

He also provided data on the expansion of LPG consumption in India, stating that as of November 1, 2022, there were 31.28 crores of active domestic LPG consumers, bringing the country's LPG coverage to 105.4%. Similar to how there are now 205 LPG bottling facilities and 25,327 LPG wholesalers as of November 1, 2022.

The new LPG cylinders will soon be equipped with QR codes, and the same will be placed on the existing ones to solve the issues of pilferage, tracking, tracing, and better inventory management. The track and trace cylinder technology would be another significant step forward in managing the enormous set of cylinders in use.
CO2 Recycling to Dimehtyl Ether
The image shows carbon dioxide recycling to dimehtyl ether

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