Since the fall of 2020, the Biofuels Bioenergy Implementation sub-team has been performing a techno economic analysis of rare earth element bioextraction (REE TEA). While traditional extraction methods use high-temperature, high-pressure conditions and caustic agents, a more environmentally friendly method uses microbes to produce organic acids and then adsorb rare earth ions from solution. However, this process is also less efficient, so the team has been working to analyze the process’s economic feasibility. The team is working with Biological and Environmental Engineering Professor Buz Barstow, who has been working to genetically engineer the microbes to produce more organic acid in order to increase efficiency.
In the final semester of the project, the team’s goal was to develop a report to advise Barstow labs on the economic viability of rare earth element extraction via various bioprocesses. They collected new data on estimated prices (feedstock prices, labor and capital costs, etc.) to update their spreadsheets, which were also simplified for ease of understanding. Overall, the total project cost was estimated to be $37 million. The team also put together some process flow diagrams to fully understand the process and each unit operation
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