The rarest of them all --Could coal ash save your smartphone? Researchers try to find out ...

 

That is the title of the article published in PowerSource which interviewed Dr. James Hower, Petrologist and Scientist at the University of Kentucky Center for Applied Energy Research.  The following is excerpts taken from the article:

The crux of the matter is that iPhones draw their properties from rare earth elements, a 15-chunk block of lanthanides at the base of the periodic table, plus the metals scandium and yttrium. By 2010, China had cornered nearly 95 percent of the world’s production of rare earths and had begun to choke exports, which caused prices to skyrocket.

Back in his lab at the University of Kentucky, Jim Hower, a geologist, started to see a wave of interest in his research like never before. Mr. Hower has been sampling slabs of Appalachian coal and its waste products and cataloging their rare earth element concentrations for years. Dr. Hower and researchers at the U.S. Geological Survey have done a lot of the cataloging of coal characteristics across the country. Now there seems to be an increased interest in rare earths from the U.S. Department of Energy.

Read the full PowerSource story.

PowerSource is a companion online resource to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and is created in addition to a weekly print section highlighting the region’s diverse energy industry — and putting that news into context.