News & Events
VIDEO: James McNiece: Master's Candidate in Mining Engineering
Hi, I'm James McNiece
I'm completing a Master's of Applied Science
under Ahmad Ghahreman at
My area of study is cerium oxidation and
and subsequent separation from other
rare earth elements.
The most interesting things that I've learned
while researching cerium extraction is just how
much we use cerium and many other rare earth metals
in our lives and don't realize it.
Cerium is really big in self-cleaning ovens.
It is the metal that is a lighter flint or any sort of
camping flint and it's also used as a fuel
stabilizer in the metal in a catalytic converter.
So, every catalytic converter contains about two
pounds of cerium.
Cerium is often found in high amounts relative to other,
more valuable rare earth metals.
And therefore, reducing the cost of separation is
of interest to industry.
So, what I'm attempting to do is find new
low-cost ways to do this in acidic media.
I do this by experimenting with selective precipitation
reactions. So, I will try with various reagents at different
concentrations, temperatures, and other conditions to
determine the ideal reagent and the best conditions
to achieve the most efficient separation of cerium
from other rare earth metals.
So, this is an example of one my selective precipitation
reactions for cerium.
What's happening in there is I have a cerium
metal solution at a set concentration and I test with
various oxidants to get a before-and-after of how
effective and sample over time to derive kenetic values
for these experiments.
The purple colour you're seeing is caused
by a low concentration of potassium permanganate
left over from the reaction after the cerium
has fully reacted and fallen out of solution.
In rare earth metal separation, all the metals will
be extracted in one solution with acid from the ore.
Once the leach liquour, as it's referred to, goes to
the subsequent plant processes, it's most efficient to
separate the cerium first, as it is the largest
fraction by mass, we would say, and therefore I'm trying
to do this without separating other rare earth metals
in a small scale. Then we can apply some scale-up factors
and make a reasonable guess about what it would look like
on a larger scale.