Theses Doctoral

Enhanced Extraction of Alkaline Metals and Rare Earth Elements from Unconventional Resources during Carbon Sequestration

Zhou, Chengchuan

With the increase of the the global energy consumption has also been increasing, which is about 18 TW nowadays (Dudley, 2018), the anthropogenic CO2 emissions have also been increasing, which is about 410 ppm nowadays (Dudley, 2018; Tans & Keeling, 2019). Numerous evidences have been reported indicating that high atmospheric CO2 concentration can have significant greenhouse effect and thus lead to global warming and climate change (Pachauri et al, 2014; Hansen et al, 2013). Therefore, measures need to be taken to control and reduce the atmospheric CO2 concentration.
In such circumstance, carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) technologies have been proposed and developed to close the carbon cycle. Mineral carbonation (MC) is one of the CCUS technologies, which mimics the natural silicate weathering process to react CO2 with silicate materials so that carbon can be stabilized in the form of insoluble carbonates for permanent carbon storage (Seifritz, 1990; Lackner et al, 1995). Both Ca- or Mg-bearing silicate minerals and alkaline silicate industrial wastes can be employed as the feedstock for mineral carbonation (Sanna et al, 2014; Gadikota et al, 2014; Park, 2005; Park & Fan, 2004; Park et al, 2003; Park & Zhou, 2017; Zhou, 2014; Zhao, 2014; Swanson, 2014). While they share similar chemistries and total Mg and Ca contents, different MC feedstock can lead to different challenges for CCUS.
As for silicate minerals, although they have large enough capacity to mineralize all the anthropogenic CO2 emissions, their reactivities are generally very low, and measures should be developed to accelerate the carbonation kinetics of the minerals (Sanna et al, 2014). However, the elemental extraction of the silicate minerals is a relatively complicated kinetic process, because silica-rich passivation layer can form on the particle surface during mineral dissolution process and thus the rate-limiting step of the process can change from chemical reaction to mass transfer. Without a clear understanding of the elemental extraction kinetics, the design and evaluation of different acceleration methods aiming at different rate-limiting steps of the process can be challenging. As for alkaline industrial wastes, they are generally more reactive than silicate minerals, but can be more heterogeneous with more complicated compositions. In such cases, the separation and recovery of other elements should also be integrated with the carbonation process so that the overall sustainability of the mineral carbonation technology can be enhanced.
In order to address these challenges, this study focused on the fundamental understanding of dissolution and carbonation behaviors of alkaline silicate materials and integration of step-wise separations of rare-earth elements (REEs). Both experimental and modeling studies were carried out to provide insights into how Mg and Ca as well as REEs are leaching into solvents at different conditions, and the fundamental understandings on mineral dissolution kinetics and mechanisms were also put forward. The fate of REEs in different product streams was also identified, and methods were developed and optimized to recover and concentrate REEs, while producing solid carbonates with highest purities. Hopefully, the findings in this study can not only advance the carbon mineralization technology but also contribute to the utilization and extraction of alkaline metals, as well as REEs, from other complex unconventional resources for the sustainable energy and material future.


  • thumnail for Zhou_columbia_0054D_15219.pdf Zhou_columbia_0054D_15219.pdf application/pdf 5.78 MB Download File

More About This Work

Academic Units
Earth and Environmental Engineering
Thesis Advisors
Park, Ah-Hyung
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
April 25, 2019