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DARPA Selects 3 Universities to Develop E-Waste Rare Element Recovery Processes

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The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has selected three universities to develop approaches for salvaging rare earth elements from electronic products that are nearing the end of their useful life.

DARPA said Friday it expects Arizona State University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Iowa State University to demonstrate proofs of concept using military and commercial e-waste through the Recycling at the Point of Disposal initiative.

The university-led research teams will additionally calculate energy budgets for their proposed extraction systems to help the agency determine the feasibility of deploying such technology.

Arizona State University partnered with TG Companies to create a hydrometallurgical process that will combine electrowinning and selective leaching techniques.

MIT plans to apply an electrochemical reduction approach in recovering high-purity compounds, while Iowa State University seeks to extract materials of interest through a surface and interface engineering method.

“RPOD will evaluate the feasibility of extracting up to seven low-volume fraction elements that would otherwise be lost as process waste in contemporary recovery techniques,” said Vishnu Sundaresan, a program manager at DARPA’s Defense Sciences Office.

Sundaresan added that DARPA will collaborate with the Defense Logistics Agency to identify possible extraction platforms for department use.

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