|United States Of America||Issued Patent||9,970,075||05/15/2018||2014-075|
Rare earth elements suffer from disproportionately hight costs and limited availability due to the difficulties associated with their isolation in pure form. At the root of this problem is the great deal of physical and chemical similarity that the lanthanide ions share. It has proven to be exceptionally challenging to separate lanthanide mixtures that are obtained from mineral deposits using hundreds of stages of solvent extraction, which is time-consuming, generates large amounts of waste, and often requires large quantities of expensive organic acid ligands.
UC Berkeley researchers have developed inexpensive and recyclable media that achieves efficient separation of lanthanide ion mixtures. Identification of functional groups attached to polymer supports in conjunction with soluble small organic acids has been found to be a good system for binding mixtures of lanthanide ions.