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Invited Review

Recovery and separation of rare earth elements by molten salt electrolysis

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  • Received: 6 June 2020Revised: 18 November 2020Accepted: 19 November 2020Available online: 26 November 2020
  • With the increasing demand of rare earth metals on functional materials, recovery of rare earth elements (REEs) from secondary resources has become an imperative issue for the transition to a green economy. Molten salt electrolysis route has the advantages of low water consumption and low hazardous wastes during the REEs recovery process. In this review, we systematically summarize the separation and electroextraction of REEs on various reactive electrodes in different molten salts. The review also highlights the relationship between the formed alloy phases and the electrodeposition parameters including the applied potential, current and ion concentration. Moreover, we evaluate the feasibility of LiF–NaF–KF (FLiNaK) electrolyte on the basis of thermodynamics for alternative research to recover REEs. Problems related to REEs separation/recovery and the choice of electrolyte are discussed in detail to realize the low-energy and high current efficiency of practical applications.
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Recovery and separation of rare earth elements by molten salt electrolysis

  • Corresponding authors:

    Yun Xue    E-mail: xueyun@hrbeu.edu.cn

    Yong-de Yan    E-mail: y5d2006@hrbeu.edu.cn

  • 1. Harbin Engineering University, Harbin 150001, China
  • 2. College of Science, Heihe university, Heihe 164300, China
  • 3. Zhongkexin Engineering Consulting (Beijing) Co., LTD, Beijing 100039, China

Abstract: With the increasing demand of rare earth metals on functional materials, recovery of rare earth elements (REEs) from secondary resources has become an imperative issue for the transition to a green economy. Molten salt electrolysis route has the advantages of low water consumption and low hazardous wastes during the REEs recovery process. In this review, we systematically summarize the separation and electroextraction of REEs on various reactive electrodes in different molten salts. The review also highlights the relationship between the formed alloy phases and the electrodeposition parameters including the applied potential, current and ion concentration. Moreover, we evaluate the feasibility of LiF–NaF–KF (FLiNaK) electrolyte on the basis of thermodynamics for alternative research to recover REEs. Problems related to REEs separation/recovery and the choice of electrolyte are discussed in detail to realize the low-energy and high current efficiency of practical applications.

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