Rare earth elements (REEs) are vital materials for modern technologies. The US National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) is collaborating with the University of Kentucky and their subcontractor Virginia Tech to demonstrate a novel process for the extraction of REEs from coal using plasma. REEs, which represent the 15 elements of the lanthanide series plus scandium and yttrium, are used in the manufacture of smart phones, cars, television screens and defense technologies; windmills and other green energy equipment need these resources to function. The “rare” in rare earth elements stem not from a scarcity of deposits, but rather in their sparse concentrations. The United States is at a historically low level in extracting and processing these highly valuable resources yet is a substantial consumer of the world market for REEs. However, domestic coal is of interest as a potentially abundant and easily accessible REE source in the US. Appalachia’s coal, […]