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Sci Rep. 2016 Jan 28;6:19961. doi: 10.1038/srep19961.

Innovative Application of Mechanical Activation for Rare Earth Elements Recovering: Process Optimization and Mechanism Exploration.

Author information

1
State Key Joint Laboratory of Environment Simulation and Pollution Control, School of Environment, Tsinghua University, Beijing, 100084, China.
2
Basel Convention Regional Centre for Training and Technology Transfer for Asia and the Pacific, Beijing 100084, China.

Abstract

With the rapidly expanding use of fluorescent lamps (FLs) and increasing interest in conservation and sustainable utilization of critical metals such as rare earth elements (REEs), the recovering of REEs from phosphors in waste FLs is becoming a critical environmental and economic issue. To effectively recycle REEs with metallurgical methods, mechanical activation by ball milling was introduced to pretreat the waste phosphors. This current study put the emphasis on the mechanical activation and leaching processes for REEs, and explored the feasibility of the method from both theoretical and practical standpoints. Results showed physicochemical changes of structural destruction and particle size reduction after mechanical activation, leading to the easy dissolution of REEs in the activated samples. Under optimal conditions, dissolution yields of 89.4%, 93.1% and 94.6% for Tb, Eu and Y, respectively, were achieved from activated waste phosphors using hydrochloric acid as the dissolution agent. The shrinking core model proved to be the most applicable for the leaching procedure, with an apparent activation energy of 10.96 ± 2.79 kJ/mol. This novel process indicates that mechanical activation is an efficient method for recovering REEs from waste phosphors, and it has promising potential for REE recovery with low cost and high efficiency.

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