Nolans arafura

The Nolans rare earths project, in the Northern Territory, Australia, has been granted major project status by the Australian government, providing the project with a tailored facilitation service to support a timely and efficient approvals process.

Owner Arafura Resources said that the major project status would assist with the coordination of all relevant Australian and Northern Territory government processes, so they could occur simultaneously and without delay.

Arafura is hoping to start production at Nolans in 2019, with production targeted at 20 000 t/y of rare earth oxide equivalent.

Arafura in June identified a number of improvements to the existing project structure, which are expected to deliver a more competitive and efficient project, with greater capacity to withstand cyclical downturns in rare earths prices.

These studies, targeting preferred phosphate-rich material types in the project’s resource, would deliver an optimal plant feed and throughput that resulted in an adjustment to planned yearly rare earths output to 14 000 t of total rare earth oxides over the more than 20-year operational life of the project.

Identified improvements also included planned yearly output of 110 000 t of a merchant-grade phosphoric acid product, which would be sold to the fertiliser industry.

Read more at Mining Weekly


multiferroic-blue-lutetiumThe magnetoelectric multiferroic. The double strand of purple represents the extra layer of iron oxide, which makes the material a multiferroic at near room temperature. Source: University of California

Multiferroics – materials that exhibit both magnetic and electric order – are of interest for next-generation computing but difficult to create because the conditions conducive to each of those states are usually mutually exclusive. And in most multiferroics found to date, their respective properties emerge only at extremely low temperatures.

Researchers from University of California, Berkeley, have combined two non-multiferroic materials, using the best attributes of both to create a new room-temperature multiferroic.

Their paper, “Atomically engineered ferroic layers yield a room-temperature magnetoelectric multiferroic,” was published along with a companion News & Views piece in Nature.

The group engineered thin films of hexagonal lutetium iron oxide (LuFeO3), a material known to be a robust ferroelectric but not strongly magnetic. The LuFeO3 consists of alternating single monolayers of lutetium oxide and iron oxide, and differs from a strong ferrimagnetic oxide (LuFe2O4), which consists of alternating monolayers of lutetium oxide with double monolayers of iron oxide.

The researchers found, however, that they could combine these two materials at the atomic-scale to create a new compound that was not only multiferroic but had better properties that either of the individual constituents. In particular, they found they need to add just one extra monolayer of iron oxide to every 10 atomic repeats of the LuFeO3 to dramatically change the properties of the system.

That precision engineering was done via molecular-beam epitaxy (MBE), a technique that let the researchers design and assemble the two different materials in layers, a single atom at a time.

In electronics devices, the advantages of multiferroics include their reversible polarization in response to low-power electric fields – as opposed to heat-generating and power-sapping electrical currents – and their ability to hold their polarized state without the need for continuous power. High-performance memory chips make use of ferroelectric or ferromagnetic materials.

Read more at Cornell University


diado-honda-motorThis motor, developed jointly by Honda Motor and Daido Electronics, incorporates magnets containing no rare earths.

Honda Motor and Daido Electronics have developed a new way to make high-performance magnets that eliminates the need for rare-earth metals imported from China.

The new technology has helped Honda secure a stable supply of a vital component for electric motors, which, in turn, are key to hybrid and electric vehicles. Daido Electronics, a unit of Daido Steel, says it has received inquiries from about 20 companies in the auto industry about the magnets. It plans to build a new plant to make them in the U.S. in three years at a cost of about 10 billion yen ($97.3 million). The company hopes to expand in North America, where sales of environment-friendly vehicles are expected to rise.

Long dominated by the Japanese trio of Hitachi Metals, Shin-Etsu Chemical and TDK, the market for high-performance magnets is expected to grow 60% in volume terms over the next five years. Until now, heavy rare-earth metals have been considered essential to increasing the power and heat-resistance of such magnets. However, deposits of one of the metals, dysprosium, are heavily concentrated in China, making supplies vulnerable to political tensions.

The new magnet developed by Honda and Daido Electronics uses another element, neodymium, and contains no heavy rare-earth metals. Honda and Daido Electronics began working on the magnet around 2010, when tensions were rising between Japan and China over disputed islands in the East China Sea. The Chinese government cut exports of rare-earth metals and prices shot up, with dysprosium becoming especially costly. Prices dropped in 2012, but the risk of wild swings in raw material prices worried automakers and magnet manufacturers.

Read more at Asia Nikkei


microdamaged-bovine-bone-structureMicroscopy of Microdamaged Bovine Bone Structure. Source: Cell

Chemists from Trinity College Dublin, in collaboration with RCSI, have devised a revolutionary new scanning technique that produces extremely high-res 3D images of bones — without exposing patients to X-ray radiation.

The chemists attach europium-based luminescent compounds to tiny gold structures to form biologically safe ‘nanoagents’ that are attracted to calcium-rich surfaces, which appear when bones crack – even at a micro level. These nanoagents target and highlight the cracks formed in bones, allowing researchers to produce a complete 3D image of the damaged regions.

The technique will have major implications for the health sector as it can be used to diagnose bone strength and provide a detailed blueprint of the extent and precise positioning of any weakness or injury. Additionally, this knowledge should help prevent the need for bone implants in many cases, and act as an early-warning system for people at a high risk of degenerative bone diseases, such as osteoporosis.

Professor Gunnlaugsson, Professor of Chemistry, said: “This work is the outcome of many years of successful collaboration between chemists from Trinity and medical and engineering experts from RCSI. We have demonstrated that we can achieve a 3-D map of bone damage, showing the so-called microcracks, using non-invasive luminescence imaging. The nanoagent we have developed allows us to visualise the nature and the extent of the damage in a manner that wasn’t previously possible. This is a major step forward in our endeavour to develop targeted contrast agents for bone diagnostics for use in clinical applications.”

Professor of Anatomy, Clive Lee, said: “Everyday activity loads our bones and causes microcracks to develop. These are normally repaired by a remodelling process, but, when microcracks develop faster, they can exceed the repair rate and so accumulate and weaken our bones. This occurs in athletes and leads to stress fractures. In elderly people with osteoporosis, microcracks accumulate because repair is compromised and lead to fragility fractures, most commonly in the hip, wrist and spine. Current X ray techniques can tell us about the quantity of bone present but they do not give much information about bone quality.”

He continued: “By using our new nanoagent to label microcracks and detecting them with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), we hope to measure both bone quantity and quality and identify those at greatest risk of fracture and institute appropriate therapy. Diagnosing weak bones before they break should therefore reduce the need for operations and implants – prevention is better than cure.”

Dr Esther Surender, postdoctoral researcher, said: “These nanoagents have great potential for clinical application. Firstly, by using gold nanoparticles, we were able to lower the overall concentration of the agent that would have to be administered within the body, which is ideal from a clinical perspective. Secondly, by using what is called ‘two-photon excitation’ we were able to image bone structure using long wavelength excitation, which is not harmful or damaging to biological tissues.”

She added: “These nanoagents are similar to the contrast agents that are currently being utilised for MRI within the clinic, and hence have the potential to provide a novel means of medical bone diagnosis in the future. Specifically, by replacing the Europium with its sister ion Gadolinium, we can tune into the MRI activity of these nanoagents for future use alongside X-ray and computed tomography scans.”

Read more at Trinity College Dublin


NioCorp logoNioCorp announced last September the successful conclusion of five metallurgical pilot plant runs that have tested the Company’s Scandium, Niobium, and Titanium production operations under continuous conditions. These pilot plants were constructed and operated at the SGS Lakefield Research facility in Canada.

Two of the pilots involved separate one-week runs of a Scandium Solvent Extraction Circuit, a conventional technology that would be used in the Company’s flagship Elk Creek Project production process to separate and concentrate Scandium.  The first pilot was completed in July, and the second pilot was competed in August.  Scandium losses were less than 1% when averaged over the two weeks of operation, representing excellent performance for a solvent extraction operation.  These results will be combined with data from upstream and downstream metallurgical results to determine, through follow-on testing, the ultimate recovery of Scandium to a final commercial product.

“I am extremely pleased with the rapid progress that has been made in completing numerous metallurgical pilot plants over the past two months,” said Scott Honan, President of Elk Creek Resources Corporation, the wholly-owned NioCorp subsidiary that is developing the Elk Creek Project.  “The pilot plants have demonstrated our ability to run key Scandium, Niobium, and Titanium production processes on a continuous basis, and have provided critical data that will allow our engineering design team to complete design work in these areas of the Elk Creek Project.”

The Company is now proceeding toward its final pilot plants necessary to complete the Elk Creek Project Feasibility Study, including those related to regenerating and recycling acid used in the Elk Creek Project production process and additional Scandium recovery and purification operations.

Read more at NioCorp