According to findings of a new research by Penn State scientists, a new method to treat acid mine drainage could help to be transformational. The method could help transform environmental pollution problem to domestically obtain high concentrations of rare earth metals. These rare earth metals are needed to produce a host of avant-garde products ranging from smart phones to fighter jets.
Meanwhile, for decades, acid mine drainage is related to significant environmental concerns. The research shows existing treatment method for acid mine can be modified for dual benefits. First, it addresses environmental concerns, and at the same time recovers rare elements and actually reduces the cost of treatment.
New Treatment Process Beneficial in two ways
Developed by a team of researchers at Penn State scientists, the two-stage treatment process served to be further beneficial. It enables to recover higher concentrations of valuable earth elements with smaller amounts of chemicals than what was previously used.
The technique makes up as an efficient, low-cost, and environment friendly method to obtain rare earth minerals that find use in a wide variety of industrial and consumer products.
In the chemical grouping, a group of 17 minerals constitute rare earth metals that find wide use in advanced technologies. And, these rare earth metals are marked by the U.S. to be critical for the economic and national security of the country. Currently, the U.S. imports almost 100 percent of these minerals, with China accounting for about 85% of the supply in the world.
For example, in Appalachia, acid mine drainage from coal mining operations represents a worthwhile domestic source of rare earth elements. This is because acid mine drainage often contains high concentrations of these minerals, and are already collected and treated due to environmental concerns.