Rare earth metals recycling from e-wastes: Strategy and perspective
Ajay Bhagwan Patil1, Rudolf Struis1, Albert Schuler1, Mohamed Tarik1, Andreas Krebs2, Werner Larsen2, Christian Ludwig1
1Paul Scherrer Institute, Switzerland; 2BLUBOX Trading AG, CH-5708 Birrwil, Switzerland
A robust and economically viable technology is under development for the recycling of technologically important rare earth (RE) metals from end of life lamp fluorescent powder (FP) e-waste. This is the first of its kind effort to recycle RE from municipal e-waste components to arrive at commercially promising individual rare earth elements (REEs), which are knowingly difficult to separate. The process technology addresses the management of strategically important RE resources as also identified by the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN), EU and US department of defence. The methodology involves cheap mineral acid for metal digestion and extractive (liquid-liquid) separation protocols using the selective extractant ligand molecules and hydrometallurgical process conditions to separate Y, Eu, and Tb to 99% purity each from the metal digested FP waste. The developed technology has potential for scale up on industrial scale, re-use of extractant and organic phase as well as extended use for recovering RE metals from other e-waste. The technology is complimentary to the existing lamp recycling machinery developed and marketed by the industrial project partner (BLUBOX AG).