Digging into rare earth elements: Mineralogical analysis with XRD

Contrary to what their name suggests, the 17 rare earth elements (REE) are not all that rare. In fact, they can be found in many minerals, and are often helpfully gathered together – but they occur in such small concentrations that they’re hard to isolate. So why go to the effort of trying to extract them?

To answer that, we need to understand why worldwide demand for REE has boomed in recent years (according to the US Geological Survey, REE mine production more than doubled between 2017 and 2021, to around 280,000 metric tons). Quite simply, it’s because REE are essential for the technologies that underpin today’s (and tomorrow’s) society. The elements that make up this group are used in everything from the everyday to the futuristic, in industries as diverse as electric mobility, wind power, consumer electronics, and defense technologies.

Facing up to the challenge

With demand for REE in applications like catalysts, screens, and magnets on the rise – and recycling rates remaining very low – getting hold of these valuable elements efficiently is becoming increasingly critical. Locating deposits for the most in-demand minerals can be a challenge all of its own, but even after sourcing, rare earth exploration and deposit mining need more frequent, more accurate monitoring solutions to ensure optimal characterization and processing. In turn, this can reduce the costs of reagents and improve the yield from the raw ore feed.

Twice as nice: Combine our XRD and XRF solutions

Malvern Panalytical’s Aeris Minerals edition provides the mineralogical insights mine operators are looking for. Using the power of X-ray diffraction (XRD), it enables operators to understand the qualitative and qualitative composition of complex REE-bearing minerals, including bastnäsite, synchesite, monazite, xenotime, florencite, eudialyte, catapleiite, aeschynite, and samarskite. With this intuitive compact machine, users can rely on high sample throughput with rapid analysis and maximum uptime. 

Better still, the Aeris is perfectly complemented by the Minerals edition of our Zetium X-ray fluorescence (XRF) spectrometer, the ideal solution for elemental analysis of geological materials. The Zetium Minerals edition has been designed to deliver superior analytical performance and stability, even in demanding mining environments. 

Together, the Aeris and Zetium Minerals editions support speedy, informed decision-making – giving your REE operations the edge and helping you mine those rarest of elements: time and cost efficiencies!

Written by: Uwe Konig, Posted by: Malvern Panalytical (www.materials-talks.com)


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