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May 23, 2022

“Fly ash” contains rare earth elements needed for electronics

Posted by in categories: mobile phones, satellites, sustainability

The United States’ reliance on China for rare earth elements could soon come to an end, thanks to a new process that pulls the valuable metals from the ash left over when we burn coal.

Why it matters: The 17 rare earth elements aren’t actually rare — they’re all more common than gold, and one is more abundant than copper. But getting our hands on them is difficult because they’re widely dispersed in Earth’s crust and hard to extract through mining.

That’s a problem because we need rare earth elements to make a lot of products, from smartphones and satellites to electric cars and wind turbines.

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