PI: Jonas Baltrusaitis
Co-PI(s): Zheng Yao
University: Lehigh University

Rare Earth Elements (REEs) play an important and critical role in industry. The ongoing development of advanced technologies promotes the increasing demand for REEs in different industries including high-tech manufacture, medical detection, and new materials development. Recently, use of supercritical carbon dioxide (sCO2) as a solvent in extraction and infusion processes has gained great attention. One such application is using sCO2 to extract REEs from coal and coal by-products to recover REEs. Other industries are also using coal for extraction and infusion, such as dye dissolution for textile applications.

However, the capital cost, as well as energy consumption, are often high in sCO2-based systems, due to the systems usually work at high-pressure conditions (10 - 50 MPa). Therefore, an important aspect for these processes is optimization of the sCO2-based system to minimize capital costs and energy consumption. This will make sCO2-based applications, including REEs extraction, more feasible and efficient. Lehigh University is currently closely working with Applied Separations Inc. of Allentown, PA to develop extraction technology for recovery of REEs, from coal, coal by- products and coal mine wastewater drainage using chelate enhanced sCO2. The participants would like to additionally carry out a project under PITA funding to conduct an investigation on optimizing a sCO2 extraction/infusion cycle loop in a way that makes the REEs extraction technology commercially available. Moreover, Applied Separations, Inc. and eCO2Dye, LLC, a company dedicated to waterless textile dyeing, would like to use the results from this investigation to improve their current sCO2 extraction/infusion cycle loop for other commercial applications to reduce the capital costs and the energy consumptions. A computational process modeling tool will be developed by Lehigh University and provided to Applied Separations for their current and future sCO2-based process design and optimization.