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PROCESS FOR THE RECOVERY OF RARE EARTHS

Exhausted catalysts FCCIndustrial wasteRare earths

Introduction

The proposed patented process is aimed at recycling and recovery of rare earths from FCC-Fluid Catalytic Cracking catalysts (industrial waste). The total recovery of rare earths after leaching and precipitation is 85-90% and the precipitate contains about 75% of lanthanum and cerium and 10% of various impurities (aluminum and other metals).

Technical features

As is well known, as the world continues to develop, the problem of the management and disposal of the waste produced and the growing demand for raw materials are becoming increasingly important. For these reasons, research is focusing on processes for the reuse of waste as an additional source of raw materials. FCC exhaust catalysts from the petrochemical industry contain high value-added materials: metals belonging to the so-called “rare earths” (Rare Earths = REs), mainly lanthanum and cerium. The high interest in rare earths is linked, on the one hand, to their wide use in hi-tech sectors (electronics, etc.) and, on the other hand, to their limited availability in nature, the mining market for rare earths being strongly held by China. In this context, a team of researchers from the University of L’Aquila has developed an innovative procedure for the recovery of rare earths present in spent catalysts. The process allows the extraction of additional elements, such as Silica and Alumina, which have a high pozzolanic activity that allows their reuse as additives for the production of cementitious materials.

Possible Applications

Recovery and recycling of industrial waste from:

  • Oil refining;
  • Mining industry;
  • WEEE (group R5): fluorescent lamps;
  • Possible applications in other sectors.

Advantages

  • Up to 90% recovery of rare earths, in particular Lanthanum and Cerium;
  • Possibility of applying the process to all sectors that generate waste containing rare earths;
  • Simple process and easy industrialization with very advantageous scalability;
  • Possible use of further recovered products in cement factories, such as additives for cements