Removal and Recovery of Rare Earth Elements


Project ID: D2022-17


Rare earth elements (REEs), such as neodymium, europium, dysprosium, terbium, and yttrium, are sometimes referred to as the “vitamins of modern industry” due to their frequent use in high-tech applications. They are used in fiber optics to carry internet traffic, making gasoline from petroleum, and in items like magnets and lasers. China dominates over 85% of the global production of REEs from primary sources. There is interest in extracting REEs from secondary sources, but current sorbents are often not cost-effective or require methods that are not environmentally friendly. Therefore, there is a need for better materials and methods to recover REEs.

Invention Description

Investigators at the University of Toledo created a sorbent for solid-phase extraction with improved selectivity for REEs. Caffeic acid (CA, 3,4-dihydroxycinnamic acid) is a naturally occurring phenolic compound commonly found in coffee, fruits, and vegetables. It is more eco-friendly and the polymer of caffeic acid is easier to produce than current solutions. Metal coordination is achieved through highly oxygenated and functional moieties, such as catechol, carboxylate, and C=C groups. Utilizing an ethylenediamine crosslinker, a caffeic acid polymer is formed and can be used as a standalone sorbent.



-Removal and recovery of REEs

-Evaluate potential sources for the presence of REEs


- Standalone polymer; no solid support required.

- Granular and air stable

- Easy to prepare

- Minimizes of hazardous and expensive reagents during extraction steps

- Eco-friendly, low cost and readily available monomer


IP Status:                             Patent pending


Patent Information:
For Information, Contact:
Katherine Pollard
Licensing Associate
The University of Toledo
Jon Kirchhoff
Sandhya Adhikari
Govind Sharma Shyam Sunder
Rare Earth
Solid-phase extraction