Researchers have found a way to extract rare materials and metals from coal in an efficient, cheap and environmentally friendly way.
Scientists from the University of Kentucky say the new method of producing high-grade rare earth elements will make manufacturing the essential components found in iPhones, computers, missiles and other technological applications much cleaner.
Materials such as neodymium and yttrium, which are used to make chemicals and equipment in the renewable energy sector, represented more than 45% of the total concentrate recovered.
With demand for these technologies at all time high, the researchers think the discovery could make a significant difference to the environmental aspects of the process and the related industries..
Rick Honaker, Professor of Mining Engineering at the University of Kentucky, said: “As far as I know, our team is the first in the world to have provided a 98% pure rare earth concentrate from a coal source.
“Our novel rare earth recovery process is low cost and more environmentally friendly than alternative technologies, such as solvent extraction.”