Research, Technology & Innovation
The global reach of Florida innovations
Recovering Critical Minerals
CEO BRIAN ANDREW
Company PRECISION PERIODIC
The United States is spending big to secure America’s future supply of minerals used in manufacturing electronic vehicles, satellites and wind turbines. Congress in June approved $250 billion in tech R&D funding that includes money to expand the mining and processing of critical minerals here and in allied countries.
Orlando-based Precision Periodic’s moment, then, seems to have arrived. The privately held company, based at UCF’s business incubator, developed Nano Beads, a nanotech-based filtering process that pulls gold, silver, copper, cobalt, lithium, rare earths and other elements from an acidic solution, such as mine leach. This year, it opened a pilot project at an old tin mine in Cornwall in England to extract the battery metal lithium from mine brine.
Traditional mining processes produce abundant tailings with noxious ingredients. Mining is financially viable only with high concentrations of minerals. Precision says its nano tech, in contrast, has advantages in cost, speed and cleanliness. It requires no pre-treatment, heat or pressure and isn’t energy intensive. It has a small footprint and recovers 95% to 100% of minerals in the first pass. The process uses fairly benign chemicals like pool cleaning acid and its only by-product is water. “Our technology changes the game because we produce no pollution,” CEO Brian J. Andrew says. Its pitch to resource owners in a presentation: “Don’t leave anything behind.”
The tech was developed to extract uranium, thorium and rare earths from Florida phosphate mining sludge and waste. (Florida’s a rich source of phosphate.) Andrew says a single Florida phosphate mine could produce 230 metric tons of rare earths a year, or a quarter of the annual U.S. military demand. The Phosphate Research Institute, impressed by initial labs results, invited the company onsite to reproduce the results. The institute says the process then showed a very low recovery of rare earth elements, although the technology appears to work well for recovering other materials.