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Facile Room-Temperature Electrodeposition of Rare Earth Metals in a Fluorine-Free Task-Specific Electrolyte

Publication Type
Journal Name
ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering
Publication Date
Page Numbers
12532 to 12540

Electrochemical deposition of rare earth metals at room temperature has attracted increasing interest due to its advantage in energy efficiency over traditional hydrometallurgical and pyrometallurgical processes. Recent progress has been made with fluorinated electrolyte systems; however, the formation of an electrode-passivating fluoride layer by electrolyte decomposition is often overlooked. Such a passivation layer causes significant and rapid decay of the deposition current and significantly hinders practical application. To address this issue, we demonstrate a fluorine (F)-free task-specific electrolyte utilizing the borohydride anion for the efficient electrodeposition of rare earth metals. By eliminating the passivation effect, the deposition process exhibits a stable current and accumulates a thick neodymium deposit on the electrode. Raman spectroscopy of the electrolyte reveals a synergetic effect between rare earth borohydride and lithium borohydride which promotes the dissociation of both borohydride salts, resulting in significantly increased ionic conductivity and electrochemical performance. Cyclic voltammetry and in-depth X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy of the deposits suggest that the electrodeposition of rare earth metals could undergo a Li-mediated reduction process. Quantitative analysis of the deposits reveals that the overall concentration of the rare earth elements reaches 75% which contains 40–48% metallic phase.