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DOE awards U of North Dakota $2.5M to sample and characterize coal-based resources containing rare earth elements

The US Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy (FE) and the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) announced that the University of North Dakota has been awarded a 2-year, $1.5-million contract to sample and characterize US coal-based resources containing high concentrations of rare earth elements (REEs). The university will also perform a round-robin inter-laboratory study on the analytical methods used to measure the concentration of REEs in US coal-based resources.

REEs comprise a series of 17 chemical elements found in the Earth’s crust. They are essential components of many technologies spanning a range of applications, including electronics, computer and communication systems, transportation, health care, and national defense. The demand for these elements has grown significantly over recent years, stimulating an emphasis on developing economically feasible approaches for domestic REE recovery.

The newly announced contract will support FE’s REE Program, which has characterized many REE-bearing samples of coal and coal by-products. The University of North Dakota will supplement this work by sampling and characterizing US domestic pre-combustion coal and coal-related materials with a minimum REE concentration of 300 parts per million, as the material is removed from the ground, with no processing other than drying.

The University will also perform a round-robin inter-laboratory study to determine the lab-to-lab and method-to-method variability in analyzing the REE content of domestic US-based coal resources.

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