Researchers use a low-cost approach to collect trace rare earth metals from hot springs water.

It is anticipated that the demand for rare earths and precious metals will continue to rise in the future. Due to the limited production areas, precision equipment recycling and the recovery of seawater and hot spring water are required in order to guarantee a consistent supply.

An exploration group led by teacher Masayuki Azuma and academic administrator Yoshihiro Ojima of the Osaka Metropolitan College Graduate School of Design has effectively fostered an adsorbent material that can specifically recuperate uncommon earth components (REEs) using harmless to the ecosystem and cheap dough puncher’s yeast and trimetaphosphate, which is utilized as a food additive.

In order to evaluate the material’s performance in a real environment, the research group carried out experiments with hot spring water and synthetic seawater. Even when using hot spring water with a REE concentration of several to several tens of ppb (g/L) and a very high content of other components, it was confirmed that the material can selectively adsorb REEs. Environmental Technology & Innovation carried the findings to publication.

“Through environmental purification, this new technology is anticipated to contribute to the realization of a society that circulates metal resources and is safe.” Professor Azuma stated, “We will continue to carry out experiments on a variety of environmental waters in the future with the intention of establishing a system that is capable of continuously treating large quantities of metal resources.”

More information: Maya Kihara et al, Adsorption of rare earth ions from synthetic seawater and hot spring water using phosphorylated yeast, Environmental Technology & Innovation (2023). DOI: 10.1016/j.eti.2023.103093

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