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December 06, 2021 | Tom Ballard

New rare-earth elements chemical separation technology licensed to NC company

A new technology for rare-earth elements chemical separation that was developed by scientists from two U.S. Department of Energy labs has been licensed to a North Carolina-based manufacturer of organic chemicals for a range of industries.

The company is Marshallton Research Laboratories that was founded in 1970 in Marshallton, PA, hence its name, before relocating four years later to an industrial site in the Piedmont Triad of North Carolina. The technology was developed by scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and Idaho National Laboratory (INL).

As many readers know, the unique electronic properties of rare-earth elements (REEs) — a group of 17 metallic elements that includes 15 lanthanides plus yttrium and scandium — make them critical for producing electronics, optical technologies, alloys and high-performance magnets. The powerful, permanent magnets are also vital to clean energy technology and defense applications.

To meet the growing need for these materials and to limit the nation’s reliance on foreign sources, ORNL and INL scientists working under the banner of CMI, a DOE Energy Innovation Hub led by Ames Laboratory, have applied their deep expertise in chemical synthesis, separations, and engineering to design and produce new extraction agents based on diglycolamide, or DGA, ligands and a corresponding process for separating lanthanides that outperforms current technology.

“At Marshallton, our purpose is to become a domestic, strategically reliable supplier of DGA extractants for rare-earth elements. We expect to service pilot-plant and commercial operations in ore processing, recovery from mining tailings and recycling,” said Mac Foster, Co-Owner of Marshallton and a collaborator on the technology. “We’re excited to further explore what these new extractants can achieve.”

Click here to learn more about the work of the researchers.

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