Rare earths unearthed
First published August 2, 2012
A James Cook University researcher will be looking into the geochemistry of a group of heavy metals known as the rare earth elements, after receiving a grant from the Federal Government.
The rare earth elements are regarded as vital elements for modern industries and technologies.
They form essential components of many everyday items, including hybrid cars, fluorescent lighting, high power magnets, solar cells, rechargeable batteries, turbines, lasers, and LCD and plasma displays.
Dr Carl Spandler, Senior Lecturer in Earth Sciences at JCU, has been awarded $711,000 under the Federal Government’s Future Fellowships program to conduct a study into how the rare earth element ore bodies are formed in the Earth’s crust.
Dr Spandler said despite their widespread use, there was currently very little understanding of how these special elements concentrate to form economically viable orebodies.
His study, Resolving the mystery of how rare earth elements are mobilised and concentrated in continental crust, will involve laboratory experiments to examine how rare-earth rich minerals behave at the high temperature and pressure conditions of the deep crust.
It will also include geological studies on natural rock samples from some of Australia’s world-class rare earth ore deposits. The rock samples will be analysed using novel micro-scale geochemical techniques in JCU’s Advanced Analytical Centre.
“This project will investigate the geological processes that mobilise and concentrate these elements in the Earth’s crust,” he said.
“The results will aid discovery of new ore deposits, which is essential to meet rapidly growing demand for these elements.”
The Future Fellowships program, which began in 2009, is designed to increase the opportunities for highly qualified mid-career researchers to work in Australia, rather than overseas.
It was recently announced $151 million would be provided to 209 researchers, including 23 international mid-career researchers, to complete their research in Australia.
The scheme is designed to increase the opportunities for highly qualified mid-career researchers to work in Australia, rather than overseas.
Another JCU researcher, Dr Sean Ulm has also received a Future Fellowship, for his study into how seashells can help us understand climate change and archaeological patterns
For interviews contact Dr Spandler on (07) 4781 6911 or email email@example.com
JCU Media contact: Caroline Kaurila (07) 4781 4586 or 0437 028 175