Bioleaching critical minerals from end-of-life feedstocks

D. Reed
Idaho National Laboratory,
United States

Keywords: critical REE, feedstocks, bioleaching


Minerals such as rare earth elements, cobalt, lithium, nickel, and others are essential for computers, smart phones, electric vehicles, and other modern and future technologies but are often not readily available in the United States. These technologies are critical for communication, medicine, security, and green energy and transportation. Lack of a stable domestic supply of critical minerals can leave the U.S. vulnerable to dynamic markets, catastrophic events, and political or other global disruptions. To help bolster a sustainable manufacturing capability and mitigate future supply chain risks, we developed a bioprocess to recover critical minerals from end-of-life (EOL) products or waste streams. We have researched the effectiveness of biorecovery of critical minerals from industrial wastes such as petroleum fluid catalytic cracking catalyst, fluorescent phosphor powder, and phosphogypsum (fertilizer & phosphoric acid waste). Additionally, we determined the economic benefit and environmental impact of our biorecovery process. To further reduce the carbon footprint and improve the economics, we found that agricultural and municipal wastes can be used to produce the bioleaching solutions for recovery of these minerals. Recent efforts to bioleach and separate critical minerals from EOL materials such as magnets and lithium-ion batteries (LIB) have also proven successful. For example, using design of experiment modeling and laboratory testing, we identified optimal leaching conditions for improved economics of a LIB bioleaching process and anticipate a $39M NPV and improved environmental sustainability as compared to other leaching technologies. This presentation will provide a summary of our bioprocess and recent research results.