Rare Earth Elements powder manufacturing by Hight Temperature Method

V. Jorjadze, G. Papadopoulos, A. Drees
IM Technologies, LLC,
United States

Keywords: rare earth, hight temperature, metal powder


Nanoparticles (NP) is a fast-growing industry with applications in biotechnology, medicine, cosmetics, electronics, catalysts, food, construction, renewable energy, aerospace, 3D printing, environmental remediation and more. This multibillion world market, where the US share is around 40%, is a future growth area for the world economy. Metallic nanoparticles have attracted attention in industrial applications due to their different physical and chemical properties from their bulk counterparts. These properties like mechanical strength, high surface area, low melting point, high electrical and thermal conductivity, optical and magnetic properties had led to their use in various applications. Currently methods of NP manufacturing are expensive, which are reflected in their prices, thousands of USD for one kilogram. Furthermore, the need for smaller sizes (integer nano sizes), tight distribution and high purity is currently unmet over the broad NP material landscape, that includes many metals, semiconductors, and pure alloys. In line with this need are 2D materials, only a couple of atoms thick, having potential applications in the semiconductor, photovoltaic and water purification markets. We had built a device, capable of producing at least 0.5-1 kg of particle powders per day. We will concentrate on REE powder generation as our initial step of activity. Currently REEs powder available on the market is sized 44um and higher and priced at least in the range of $1000-$7000/100gr. Our nano sized REE powder is expected to be valued higher. After REE, we will move to the other nanoparticle production including Copper, Silicon, Aluminum, including alloys and 2D materials. The proposed technology adapts a previously developed constant current power source for high temperature plasma arc generation (DoE GIPP Project P549), along with a graphite-based furnace design, to generate high temperatures that breakdown, liquefy and/or evaporate constituents within a pre-concentrate mixture. The thermal energy produced by the high constant current plasma generation in the IMT approach is uniformly distributed over the entire furnace, thus achieving higher energy capacity for a given power input. It is fully tailorable via its electrical power input and scaling of the system to address higher capacity is straightforward. The high temperatures that can be achieved are evidenced by early tests whereby the successful melting of tungsten (melting temperature 3,422°C; 6,192°F) and evaporations of several metals with boiling temperatures above 2,500°C were evidenced. IMT’s proposed solution offers a path to significant cost savings in the production of nanomaterials, including those classified as critical or not readily available, such as pure alloy nanoparticles, thus creating new opportunities in this market area. We will present the results of the metal powder production for following rare earth elements: Dysprosium, Gadolinium, Neodymium, Yttrium and Terbium.