Akita University Team Successfully Extracts Rare Earth from Hot Spring

Akita University Team Successfully Extracts Rare Earth from Hot Spring
Yomiuri Shimbun: 温泉からレアアース採取、秋田大グループが成功
July 22, 2011

Rare earth, an essential component of advanced technology, was successfully extracted from Tamagawa Onsen, a hot spring in Senbei City, Akita Prefecture that is famous for its strongly acidic water, by an Akita University Faculty of Engineering and Resource Science research team led by Professor Atsushi Shibayama (age 40), according to a July 21 announcement.

The group says 520 kilograms of rare earth can be extracted from the spring per year. This is too little to be useful for businesses, but this discovery shows that rare earth can be recovered from hot springs and the ocean floor.

According to the announcement, Dr. Shibayama’s team has collected 200 liters of water from Tamagawa Onsen since last November. After adding nitrium to the water to neutralize it and rare earth to the iron and aluminum molecules inside to cause precipitation, 15 additional milligrams of rare earth per liter of water were extracted. This rare earth was confirmed to include 14 elements, including dysprosium, which is used in the magnets of hybrid automobile engines, and europium.

The group concluded that roughly 750 kg of rare earth flow through Tamagawa Onsen each year, of which 520 kg could be recovered.

Rare earth is problematic because of its unstable supply (roughly 90% of which was thought to be in China until this month) and its rising price. Japan uses about 30,000 metric tons per year.

Dr. Shibayama said in the press conference at Akita University, “Although there is too little rare earth in this spring for it to become the base of a business operation, there’s a high probability rare earth can be found in other springs with highly acidic water, as well. Our method can also be used to recover rare earth from the ocean floor.” He plans to investigate other springs from here on.

Akita University President Noboru Yoshimura said, “Small as the the amount may be, we confirmed that our country has a supply of this resource. We would like to investigate how to make practical use of it and decrease the cost of extraction.”









(2011年7月22日08時57分 読売新聞)

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