A Low-Cost Rare Earth Elements Recovery TechnologyEPA Contract Number: EPD13039
Title: A Low-Cost Rare Earth Elements Recovery Technology
Investigators: Joshi, Prakash B.
Small Business: Physical Sciences, Inc.
EPA Contact: Manager, SBIR Program
Project Period: May 15, 2013 through November 14, 2013
Project Amount: $79,985
RFA: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) - Phase I (2013) RFA Text | Recipients Lists
Research Category: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) , SBIR - Innovation in Manufacturing
Physical Sciences, Inc., and the University of Kentucky Center for Applied Energy Research propose to develop a unique enabling technology to significantly reduce U.S. dependency for Rare Earth Elements (REE) on foreign suppliers and our global competitors. Our innovation is a process that utilizes very inexpensive and abundant domestic raw materials for high-yield and low-cost generation of REE in environmentally responsible and beneficial ways. The process has the potential to meet the entire projected U.S. REE demand over the next decade utilizing a small fraction of the annual production of the domestic raw materials. Our approach is complementary, but far more efficient, than other methods of recovering REE, e.g., recycling components from used machinery and equipment. A key aspect of our process is that it also removes hazardous contaminants from the raw materials as part of the REE recovery cycle, rendering them more valuable for commercial use.
The objective of the SBIR program is to develop the REE recovery process technology. In Phase I, we propose to demonstrate the feasibility of our process on laboratory scale. We plan to identify ancillary pre- and post- processes as well as beneficiated byproducts and co-products that will enhance the utility of the raw materials and economics of the entire project. We will also address the environmental benefits and considerations associated with the processes and products in Phase I. In Phase II, we intend to further develop, engineer, and optimize the process and its environmental benefits. There are several potential commercial applications of the technology proposed under this SBIR project. These include (1) commercially viable processes for domestically producing materials (rare earths) of strategic importance to the United States at low cost; (2) commercially viable processes for environmentally beneficial utilization of readily available domestic raw materials; and (3) low-cost, marketable byproducts and co-products of commercial value that can be used domestically and also exported to the emerging economies of the world.