Selective recovery of rare earth elements with ligand-functionalized polymers in fixed-bed adsorption columns

Jonathan C. Callura, Qingyang Shi, David A. Dzombak, Athanasios K. Karamalidis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Rare earth elements (REE) are a group of valuable metals with growing demand and broad applications. Mineral ores, the traditional sources of REE, require significant capital investment and their refinement has been a source of environmental contamination. Industrial fluids and natural REE-bearing liquids are potential alternative sources for these metals. This work investigated the performance and REE selectivity of polymer resin beads functionalized with N,N-bis(phosponomethyl)glycine (BPG) for extraction of REE from saline solutions in fixed-bed adsorption columns. Competitive batch adsorption experiments were conducted with various metals (Nd, Gd, Ho, Al, Fe, Co, Ni, Ba, Pb, Th, and U) and the BPG-functionalized resins were up to 137 times more selective for REE than aminated resins. In column experiments, the BPG-functionalized resins preferentially adsorbed heavier metals and REE were strongly retained in the functionalized column, taking 270 times longer than the amine column to reach 10% breakthrough and 128 times longer to reach 50% breakthrough. REE bound to the BPG-functionalized resins were recovered with a dilute HNO3 solution, yielding REE concentrations up to 236 times higher than the influent feedstock. This work provides new insight into the operational performance of novel functionalized adsorbents for recovery of REE from saline fluids.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number118472
JournalSeparation and Purification Technology
StatePublished - Jun 15 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Filtration and Separation


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