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Continuous recovery of phosphoric acid and Rare-Earths containing particles from phosphoric acid sludge using a decanter cent...

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Chemical Engineering Journal
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Recovery of rare earth elements (REEs) from various industrial and natural streams currently draws significant attention in efforts to meet the demands of the manufacturing industry. Among many industrial byproducts and waste streams, phosphoric acid sludge could be one of the most economically feasible resources for the recovery of REEs because solid particles in the sludge contain relatively concentrated REEs, up to 3,000 ppm, while the liquid component of the sludge is valuable phosphoric acid (P2O5) that can be recovered and returned to the main product. Due to high viscosity and large solids content (e.g., 30–40 %), however, this byproduct stream requires multistep separation and purification processes. In this study, a single-step process involving a continuous-flow decanter centrifuge (CFDC) was employed to investigate its feasibility for continuous solid/liquid separation from real phosphoric acid sludge. High centrifugal forces generated from up to 1500 G gravity acceleration separate solid particles from the sludge, generating a liquid-rich stream and a solids-rich stream at the exit of the CFDC. A single pass of phosphoric-acid sludge through the CFDC yielded 95 % liquid recovery and 90 % recovery of REEs-containing solids from 20 to 34 wt% solids-containing sludge. A reduced order model developed for the CFDC operation showed good agreement with experimental data, and preliminary technoeconomic analysis revealed potential process feasibility.