by University of Exter, Oct. 11, 2020 in WUWT
Pioneering new research has helped geologists solve a long-standing puzzle that could help pinpoint new, untapped concentrations of some the most valuable rare earth deposits.
A team of geologists, led by Professor Frances Wall from the Camborne School of Mines, have discovered a new hypothesis to predict where rare earth elements neodymium and dysprosium could be found.
The elements are among the most sought after, because they are an essential part of digital and clean energy manufacturing, including magnets in large wind turbines and electric cars motors.
For the new research, scientists conducted a series of experiments that showed sodium and potassium – rather than chlorine or fluorine as previously thought – were the key ingredients for making these rare earth elements soluble.
This is crucial as it determines whether they crystalise – making them fit for extraction – or stayed dissolved in fluids.
The experiments could therefore allow geologists to make better predictions about where the best concentrations of neodymium and dysprosium are likely to be found.
The results are published in the journal, Science Advances on Friday, October 9th 2020.
University of Exeter researchers, through the ‘SoS RARE’ project, have previously studied many natural examples of the roots of very unusual extinct carbonatite volcanoes, where the world’s best rare earth deposits occur, in order to try and identify potential deposits of the rare earth minerals.