Rare-earth elements are essential for modern technological applications (electronics, renewable energy, magnets, lasers, CO2 absorbing ceramics, etc.) and their utilisation is considered a critical economic indicator. These elements are usually found as carbonates (e.g., largest REE deposit is Bayan Obo, China) and sedimentary phosphate deposits. In the past 10 years the supply of rare-earths has however become constrained and at the same time their demand is steadily increasing.
Due to the risk of supply disruptions, it is necessary to find new rare-earth sources. However, we know very little about the formation and crystallization pathways, stability or dissolution of rare-earth carbonates and phosphates. This knowledge is urgently needed to understand the main processes by which REE-bearing minerals are formed and concentrated.
I have initiated a line of research by studying the crystallisation of REE carbonates at hydrothermal conditions. My aim is also to improve recycling methods and find better fractional crystallization techniques for separating REE carbonates, but also to reduce environmental harm from continual REE (and other critical metals) mining.
Vallina, B., Rodriguez-Blanco, J.D., Brown, A.P., Blanco, J.A. and Benning, L.G. (2015) The role of amorphous precursors in the crystallization of La and Nd carbonates. Nanoscale, 7, 12166-12179. doi: 10.1039/C5NR01497B. [PDF] [Supl. Info]
Rodriguez-Blanco, J.D., Vallina, B., Blanco, J.A. and Benning, L.G. (2014) The role of REE3+ in the crystallization of lanthanites. Mineralogical Magazine, 78, 1373-1380. DOI: 10.1180/minmag.2014.078.6.03 [PDF]
Vallina, B., Rodriguez-Blanco, J.D., Blanco, J.A. and Benning, L.G. (2013) Amorphous dysprosium carbonate: characterization, stability and crystallization pathways. Journal of Nanoparticle Research, 15, 1438. doi: 10.1007/s11051-013-1438-3 [PDF] [Supl. Info]