Researchers at Trinity College Dublin have discovered the mechanisms for the formation of a rare earth element (REE), which is in increasing demand for use in green energy and high-tech industries.
Their discovery has important economic consequences; there is no worthy alternative to REE. They are indispensable for their ability to form small and very powerful magnets required for smart devices and low-carbon energy production (in electronics, wind turbines, hybrid cars).
Due to the fact that researchers do not know how most of the rare earth minerals are formed, only three of them are used in commercial production. Bastnazite is the main valuable mineral. By studying how water containing REEs interacted with calcite, the group discovered a new way of forming bastnasite that could be replicated in the laboratory.
The scientists also noted that the demand for this mineral for high-tech products has been constantly growing over the years, so researchers need to know how it is formed. This generates a lot of competition as many items have become very valuable.
“Unfortunately, the extraction and processing of REE is expensive both financially and ecologically, therefore such work is important for a better understanding of the mechanisms of bastnazite formation, which, in turn, helps us to improve the existing methods of extraction and processing, and in the future – production “, Scientists say.