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Size distribution of rare earth elements in coal ash

May 7, 2015

Rare earth elements (REEs) are utilized in various applications that are vital to the automotive, petrochemical, medical, and information technology industries. As world demand for REEs increases, critical shortages are expected. Due to the retention of REEs during coal combustion, coal fly ash is increasingly considered a potential resource. Previous studies have demonstrated that coal fly ash is variably enriched in REEs relative to feed coal (e.g, Seredin and Dai, 2012) and that enrichment increases with decreasing size fractions (Blissett et al., 2014). In order to further explore the REE resource potential of coal ash, and determine the partitioning behavior of REE as a function of grain size, we studied whole coal and fly ash size-fractions collected from three U.S commercial-scale coal-fired generating stations burning Appalachian or Powder River Basin coal. Whole fly ash was separated into , 5 um, to 5 to 10 um and 10 to 100 um particle size fractions by mechanical shaking using trace-metal clean procedures. In these samples REE enrichments in whole fly ash ranges 5.6 to 18.5 times that of feedcoals. Partitioning results for size separates relative to whole coal and whole fly ash will also be reported.