Rare earths in tailings could power modern gadgetry

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Rare earths in tailings could power modern gadgetry

Gold rush-era discards find new value for components
Materials scientist Ryan Ott, left, with the U.S. Department of Energy Ames Laboratory, and research technician Ross Anderson examine an ingot of magnesium and rare-earth metals as part of a project to optimize the process to reclaim rare earths from scraps of rare-earth-containing magnets in Ames, Iowa.
This 1905 photo shows a channel in bedrock worn by tailings of the Cherokee hydraulic mine in Butte County, Calif. Across the West, early miners digging for gold, silver and copper had no idea that one day something even more valuable would be hidden in the piles of dirt and rocks they tossed aside. Now there’s a rush in the U.S. to find key components of cellphones, televisions, weapons systems, wind turbines, MRI machines and the regenerative brakes in hybrid cars, a group of versatile minerals on the periodic table called rare-earth elements and old mining tailings piles just might be the answer.

Rare earths in tailings could power modern gadgetry

Materials scientist Ryan Ott, left, with the U.S. Department of Energy Ames Laboratory, and research technician Ross Anderson examine an ingot of magnesium and rare-earth metals as part of a project to optimize the process to reclaim rare earths from scraps of rare-earth-containing magnets in Ames, Iowa.
This 1905 photo shows a channel in bedrock worn by tailings of the Cherokee hydraulic mine in Butte County, Calif. Across the West, early miners digging for gold, silver and copper had no idea that one day something even more valuable would be hidden in the piles of dirt and rocks they tossed aside. Now there’s a rush in the U.S. to find key components of cellphones, televisions, weapons systems, wind turbines, MRI machines and the regenerative brakes in hybrid cars, a group of versatile minerals on the periodic table called rare-earth elements and old mining tailings piles just might be the answer.
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