The SCALE pilot plant uses ionic liquid to extract rare earth elements from the bauxite residue (red mud) of alumina production.
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Scandium is a chemical element with symbol Sc and atomic number 21. A silvery-white metallic d-block element, it was discovered in 1879 by spectral analysis of the minerals euxenite and gadolinite from Scandinavia.
Scandium is a rare-earth metal, used in small amounts but with drastic effects on properties of matter. It is a key component in producing high strength Aluminium alloys used in aerospace and 3D printing as well as in Solid Oxide Fuel Cell (SOFC) applications.
Scandium is present in most of the deposits of rare-earth and uranium compounds, but it is extracted from these ores in only a few mines worldwide. Scandium supply is limited due its scarcity and the high cost of its production, which currently takes place in Asia and Russia. Europe has no production of Scandium, but is home to many Scandium end-users and to industries having Scandium in their industrial residues. By converting waste into resources and thus developing a stable and secure EU scandium supply chain to serve the needs of EU aerospace and high tech industry, SCALE project will contribute to reduce dependency on imports of raw materials.
Scandium is an enabler in vital sectors like clean energy, transport, optics and advanced materials. Despite having a proven set of impressive applications, its volatile price and unreliable supply chain limit their deployment. SCALE develops innovative technologies that can extract economically and sustainably Sc from dilute mediums (<100 mg/L) and upgrade them to pure oxides, metals and alloys at lower energy or material cost. This will be achieved through the development of a number of innovative extraction, separation, refining and alloying technologies that will be validated in an appropriate laboratory and industrial environment to prove their technical and economic feasibility. SCALE builds on the success of previous and on-going European research projects like ENEXAL, EURARE, REECover, REE4EU and REMAGHIC.