Rare Earth Elements (REE) are essential to the UK's high technology manufacturing industries but our supply comes from only a few deposits worldwide, mostly from China. One aim of our research is to understand chemical signatures in zeolite minerals related to these deposits and to use them as "route-maps" for discovering new deposits, currently hidden by surface layers.
Some signatures are the result of element selection by minerals, and the zeolite group of minerals do this exceptionally well at low temperatures, being already widely utilized. We hope to discover by experimentation which zeolites are selective for which particular REE to be able to harness the patterns for industrial innovation. This could bring environmental benefits from energy savings in low temperature mineral processing. Similar experiments could be done for other "E-tech" critical elements such as indium, cobalt and tellurium.
Further scope for harnessing nature's enrichment patterns comes from our study of the world's largest REE deposit at Bayan Obo in China. Although this deposit is mostly enriched in light-REE, we have nevertheless seen heavy-REE enrichment by two minerals, zircon and xenotime, though very rare at Bayan Obo. By collaboration with geochemical modellers, we hope to discover the brine-chemistry and temperature conditions at which these enrichments happened. This deeper understanding of REE mobilities also has the potential to help with exploration and mineral processing innovations.
Read more About Us here.
Our Science Questions:
(1) What are the patterns of geochemical behaviour of REE and other trace elements in environmentally-sensitive, near-surface systems (especially volcanic glass to zeolite transitions and hydrothermal fluid-zeolite precipitation), in relation to reaction conditions?
(2) Do zeolite minerals fractionate the REE due to mineralogical controls and if so, can these properties be harnessed for the benefit of industry and the environment?
(3) Can mineral stability models constrain industrial processing conditions necessary for mimicking and harnessing nature's highly effective HREE fractionation processes?
SoS-REAMS' Catalyst Activities:
For the volcanic glass to zeolite transitions, we are investigating the feasibility of in situ characterizations; - see Sensitive Tephra Analysis.
For the fluid-precipitated zeolites, we are conducting a Reconnaissance Survey of zeolite compositions using contrasting samples from all over the world, validating the procedures and linking to fluid modelling capabilities.
Fundamental science - To help with interpretation of the new data on zeolite compositions, and to explore potential industrial applications, we are designing some preliminary experiments on mineral-fluid interactions, which will provide fundamental, predictive, reference data on zeolite minerals and their responses to rare earth solutes.
[color=#000000] [/color]Mineralized carbonatite: We hope to "case study test" our [url=https://connect.innovateuk.org/web/ree-in-alkaline-mineral-systems/documents?p_p_auth=olhFU2Hu&p_p_id=20&p_p_life...
Oct 21 / 09:00 until Oct 22 / 17:00Cardiff, Wales, UK
14:00 until 16:30"Lanthanide-bearing materials and solutes: characterisation and properties." Speaker details to...