Research

RESEARCH OVERVIEW

Areas of Interest

  • Technospheric mining; Urban mining; Waste Valorization; and Recycling
  • Advanced Materials Design and Fabrication; Batteries; Sensors and Filters; Functional surfaces; Hydrophobicity
  • Process Development, Modelling, and Optimization

Materials of Interest

  • Rare earth elements (REEs)
  • Platinum group elements (PGMs)
  • Iron and steel
  • Lithium
  • Aluminum

Applications of Interest

  • Supercritical Fluid Extraction
  • Molten Salt Electrolysis
  • Hydrometallurgy
  • Solvent extraction
  • Batteries

Extraction and Recycling of Strategic Materials

One of the missions of our research program is “developing innovative hydrometallurgical and electrochemical processes for extraction, processing, and recycling of strategic materials, including REEs, PGMs, lithium, and iron”.

REEs have unique physicochemical properties that make them indispensable in many emerging critical and green innovations, which includes wind turbines, solid oxide fuel cells, hybrid and electric vehicles, and catalysts, as well as portable electronics, and medical devices. The demand for REEs is increasing steeply, and some are classified under critical materials, that is, those that are essential in use and subject to supply risk.

PGMs are rare, expensive metals with unique catalytic properties that are one of the main components of automotive catalytic convertors. Lithium is widely used in lithium-ion batteries: the next generation of automotive industry. The demand for Li is surpassing its supply, so it is classified under strategic materials. Iron and steel are the number one construction material in the world and finding less carbon intensive processes for their extraction is highly of interest.

Here is a list of our current projects:

  • Process investigation of REEs recovery from industrial waste streams, including: 1) phosphogypsum; 2) bauxite residue (red mud); and 3) metallurgical slags.
  • Process investigation of REEs recycling from end-of-life consumer products including: 1) electric and hybrid car batteries; 2) permanent magnets; and 3) automotive catalytic convertors.
  • Recycling of PGMs from automotive catalytic convertors and metallurgical slags.
  • Recovery and recycling of lithium from lithium-ion batteries.
  • High temperature (molten salt) electrolysis for metal extraction.
  • Recovery of hematite (an iron source) from HPAL (high pressure acid leach) residue for steelmaking.

Development of Advanced Materials

The second mission of our group is “the design and fabrication of advanced materials with controlled properties including hydrophobicity (non-wetting), scale-resistant, and transparency”.

These materials can be used to design batteries, electrodes, sensors, membranes, self-cleaning surfaces, condensers and reactors walls to benefit various industries ranging from thermal and solar power generation to batteries to desalination to hydrometallurgy by increasing their efficiency and lowering their initial and/or maintenance costs.

Here is a list of our current projects:

  • Design and fabrication of functional materials for high-temperature gas filtration.
  • Commercial scale fabrication of hydrophobic and superhydrophobic surfaces.

Chemical Modelling and Process Simulation

The third mission of our group is “process development, modelling, and optimization”.

We develop chemical models (using OLI Systems and Factsage software) that can provide a fundamental understanding of chemical and phase behaviour of complex electrolyte systems. We can also utilize the developed models in commercial process simulation software (mainly AspenPlus) to simulate the processing conditions in a particular process and to find the optimum operating conditions to increase the efficiency and decrease the operating costs.

Here is a list of our current projects:

  • Chemical modelling and experimental investigation of aqueous electrolyte systems containing “REEs” (rare earth elements).
  • Chemical modelling and experimental investigation of calcium sulphate (gypsum) in hydrometallurgical processes.

If you are interested in any of these topics, please contact us.