Chemists at Belgian university KU Leuven have developed a new technique that makes it easier and more sustainable to recycle certain rare earth metals from fluorescent and energy saving lamps.
The innovative process uses an ionic liquid technology for recycling europium and yttrium from these lamps.
These metals can then be directly reused in new lamps. Compared to the traditional solvents, the ionic liquid benefits from its selectivity for metal dissolution and its reusability.
KU Leuven researcher David Dupoint said: “Instead of employing an acid as the solvent, we use an ionic liquid. This is an organic dissolving agent that consists entirely of ions or electrically loaded particles. It does not evaporate, it is inflammable and works very selectively.
“We can design it in such a way that it only dissolves the red lamp phosphor. The recycled europium and yttrium can be directly reused. Furthermore, the ionic liquid is also reusable for a next cycle.”