Extraction methods of Critical Materials1 (e.g., rare earth elements, REE) is of interest to government initiatives and industry research. Currently all REEs are extracted through mining and mineral processing of REE ores. Established techniques such as precipitation and solvent extraction are used for metal recovery, especially useful for large-scale operations with high metal ion concentrations. In contrast, adsorption can be used to recover metal ions from low-concentration sources by means of relatively simple processes. Many adsorbents for REEs have been studied;2-14 nevertheless, there is no adsorbent material in practical use as of date.
In this study we examine the feasibility of using carbon black derived from whole used tires obtained by pyrolysis as a sorbent material for REE. Other carbon materials were examined such as activated carbon, commercial carbon black (natural gas partial combustion), and functionalized forms of activated carbon and commercial carbon black. For the adsorption of light REEs (La, Ce, Nd, Sm, and Y), various operating variables were tested (i.e., temperature, pH, sorbent loading, interfering ions, and recyclability) as well as the kinetics of adsorption. Overall, the carbon black derived from recycled tires demonstrates better adsorption characteristics over the other carbon materials examined in this study and presents itself as a sustainable material for extraction of rare earth elements from low-temperature geothermal wells.
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