Environmentally Clean, Low-cost, Low Emission, Zero Carbon Rare Earth Metal Primary Processing

Award Information
Department of Energy
Award Year:
Phase I
Agency Tracking Number:
Solicitation Year:
Solicitation Topic Code:
09 d
Solicitation Number:
Small Business Information
Metal Oxygen Separation Technologies, Inc.
11 Michigan Drive, Natick, MA, 01760-1334
Hubzone Owned:
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged:
Woman Owned:
Principal Investigator:
Adam Powell
(781) 898-3430
Business Contact:
Steve Derezinski
(781) 898-3430
Research Institution:

The MOxST rare-earth electro winning process is the only known process that is compatible with western environmental sitting regulations at low cost. MOxST & apos;s process potentially replaces seven leaching and acid/base reaction unit operations with a single molten salt electrolysis process that produces a pure oxygen by-product. Taken together, these features can simplify metal processing, resulting in very clean, efficient, and low-cost oxide-to-metal production. This project will demonstrate use of the MOxST process to reduce oxides of two new rare earth metals, to reduce bastnsite ore, and to recycle rare-earths from magnet scrap. Those will be dysprosium for magnets and either praseodymium, also for magnets, or lanthanum for nickel metal hydride batteries. MOxST recently earned funding to demonstrate the process for neodymium reduction, and the process has already been demonstrated for ytterbium reduction. Two potential customers have indicated strong need for the MOxST process. A large US- based rare earth mining company indicated that the absence of carbon contamination and associated per fluorocarbon emissions makes our process very attractive. And Takehisa Minowa, General Manager for Magnetic Materials Research at Shin-Etsu Chemical, which makes Toyota Prius motor magnets, wrote For these reasons of no carbon contamination, low labor cost, and much better workplace safety and environmental performance, we believe that MOxST could have the best process for producing neodymium in the developed world. [emphasis added] The MOxST process uses electrical energy to separate metal oxides into metals and a pure oxygen gas by-product. Though similar to molten salt electrolysis processes, such as the Hall- Hroult cell for aluminum production, this process uses a stabilized zirconia solid electrolyte between the molten salt and anode, with several benefits: The metal and oxygen products have a solid barrier between them, preventing their back- reaction and increasing current efficiency; The absence of carbon improves product purity, e.g. Nd-Fe-B magnets are stronger with carbon content & lt;0.2%, carbon anodes cannot reliably achieve this; Zero CO2, per fluorocarbon, perchlorocarbon and CFC emissions, zero chlorine in the process; MOxSTs accomplishments to date include: Production of ytterbium from its oxide with good purity; Magnesium production at over 200 A current (85-90 g/hr), and over 100 A in a single tube; Production of 99.97% pure magnesium from refractory-grade MgO. Current efficiency often indistinguishable from 100%; Three-year $6M award to scale up magnesium production by the MOxST process. We are proposing to adapt this technology for primary rare earth production using a clean, western-compatible processing capability unique to MOxST.

* information listed above is at the time of submission.

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