Collection of Rare Earth Metal Particles From Aqueous Solutions Using Bubbles as Carriers

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Researchers
Maria Sierra Alvarez
Professor, Chemical & Environmental Engineering
Pierre Deymier
Department Head, Materials Science & Engineering
Manish Keswani
Assistant Professor, Materials Science & Engineering
Managed By
Robert Sleeper
Licensing Manager (520) 626-4604

Title: Collection of Rare Earth Metal Particles from Aqueous Solution Using Bubbles as Carriers

Invention: A new method based on sono-electrochemistry has been invented for the synthesis or formation of highly uniform, nano- or micro-sized particles of metals, metalloids, or metal alloys with the variability to produce them in many different sizes. The invention uses the principles of electrochemistry and acoustics by combining the benefits of both methods to synthesize particles. Through electrochemistry, hydrogen bubbles are created and used for synthesizing particles that are soluble in aqueous solution. These hydrogen bubbles allow different parameters, such as size, to be controlled.

Background: Metal and metal alloy nano- or micron-sized particles (e.g. silver, gold, etc) have been of high interest due to the increasing application opportunities across different technologies. Current state of the art techniques for synthesizing these particles suffer from major drawbacks. Techniques that have the capability of synthesizing particles in a narrow size distribution do not offer the variability of synthesizing them in different size ranges. In addition, methods often fail to offer the scalability, chemical cleanliness, or environmental safety that are essential for an ideal manufacturing process. To overcome these hurdles, a novel invention has been developed that is scalable, clean, and safe for synthesizing highly uniform metal and metal alloy particles with the ability to have them in a variety of sizes.

Applications:

  • Removing/or recovering soluble metal/metalloid species from aqueous solutions
  • Manufacturing of electronic products, solar panels, and other consumer products
  • Providing a reliable supply of metals/metalloids for use in the short-to-mid term
  • Catalysis, photonics, optoelectronics, information storage, sensory probes, surface enhanced Raman scattery, formulation of magnetic ferrofluids, and medical applications

Advantages:

  • Addresses current technological drawbacks including a) inability to produce particles with a narrow size distribution or to produce them in different size ranges, b) use of harsh and expensive chemicals used during the process, and c) lack of scalability
  • Allows for the conversion of soluble species into insoluble particles that can be settled out of solution
  • Excellent control of size
  • Elimination of toxic chemicals that are harmful to humans and other ecological species
  • Synthesizes larger amounts of product at a lower cost
  • Eliminates common safety risks