National Post featured our research program in an article titled The forgotten factor in Donald Trump's quest to buy Greenland — rare-earth elements by Genna Buck.
Quotes from the article:
"That has to change, says Gisele Azimi, principal investigator at the University of Toronto’s laboratory for strategic materials — because disused devices are a vast, untapped source of relatively pure rare-earth elements that could be extracted and re-used.
If all the rare-earths currently locked up in old devices could be recycled, “We would be good for a long time,” she said.
Even if you take your old iPad to a reputable recycler, most likely only the glass and plastic parts will be extracted, Azimi said. The “powder” containing rare-earth elements is simply discarded.
Azimi’s lab has developed a way to extract rare earths from devices. It uses carbon dioxide to dissolve them, while other processes use acids that generate a lot of nasty waste products. However, the process has yet not been scaled up, though she hopes that see that within a decade. In the meantime, it’s much cheaper to continue sourcing rare earths from China.
Azimi is not holding out hope for Greenland as an alternative solution. The environmental impact of mining for rare earths is profound, and even if it was to happen, the process to get new mining operations off the ground takes decades — and that’s time we don’t have.
With her research team, Azimi has run several calculations looking at different possible future scenarios with respect to rare earths.
If, for instance, we actually increased our use of wind turbines globally, enough to achieve the environmental target of keeping carbon dioxide under 450 parts per million in the atmosphere, we’d be in danger of running out of some rare earths within just 10 years, rather than 100.
“It would be a significant challenge, and not a particularly strange thing to have happen,” she said. “Demand could be exponentially far from supply.”
Personally, Azimi holds on to her devices for as long as she can, and she’s keeping her old ones until there’s a recycling process in place that is able to extract rare earths.
Either that will have to happen, or a lot of new, and potentially environmentally damaging, mines will have to open or expand, or we’ll have to find some other solution. Without rare earths, our increasingly connected, technologically dependent world could face a sort of smartphone-ocalypse."
Chatelaine featured our research program in an article titled The Real Environmental Toll of Your Smartphone by Takara Small.
Quotes from the article: "Excessive mining also threatens the future of local growth in developing countries by depleting natural reserves and curtailing local manufacturing growth, says Professor Gisele Azimi, a chemical engineering professor at the University of Toronto. “It’s not just the environmental damage,” she says. “If the materials aren’t being recycled, you’re generating high levels of new e-waste and the industry will face supply shortages in the next 10 years and costs will skyrocket.”
Azimi and her team at University of Toronto have created a process that allows companies to recycle elements found in electronics in as little as one hour. While not commercially available just yet, she sees it as the future of electronic waste and a way to lessen the pressure placed on the environment.
“If you can enable green technology it’s a big win for companies and the environment,” says Azimi."
Professor Azimi received Dean's Spark Professorship.
Twenty-seven U of T Engineering assistant professors have been appointed to early-career professorships across three new programs for tenure- and teaching-stream faculty members. The professorships, created by Dean Cristina Amon, will enhance research in emerging areas and practices in engineering education across the Faculty.
Please read the full article here on UofT Engineering News.
U of T Engineering recognized Tenova Goodfellow as one of the three key industry partners at its annual Industry Partners’ Reception on Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018. Tenova Goodfellow is one of our partners to develop more energetically efficient techniques for the steelmaking industry.
Manager of Research and Design, Metals Division Mr. Vittorio Scipolo of Tenova describes the partnership as “very positive,” yielding promising results across all objectives.
“We’ve gained fundamental knowledge on high temperature materials and on the actual composition of steelmaking waste,” he says. “In particular the waste valorisation portion of the project has already provided few good insights on how to better transform the waste material into a valuable resource.” “[But] the most rewarding part of the collaboration has been to be able to create a very collaborative and friendly environment. Results and next steps are always discussed together driven by passion and a desire to do better.”
In her nomination of Tenova for the award, Professor Azimi wrote "Tenova’s team goes above and beyond the level of engagement that is expected in a collaborative research program. I strongly believe Tenova Goodfellow has demonstrated a great passion to fostering fruitful collaboration with my group that have positively impacted my group’s research excellence".
Please read the full article here on UofT Engineering News.
Engineering Newsletter of the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering featured our research program in an article titled Mining your phone: Recovering rare earth elements from e-waste, authored by Tyler Irving. In the same issue of the newsletter the topic of our research was also mentioned in a message from Dean Cristina Amon.
“Valor Econômico”, the most prestigious newspaper in Brazil in the areas of economy and finance, interviewed Professor Gisele Azimi during the 17th Brazilian Mining Congress and EXPOSIBRAM 2017. You can find the full article here (in Portuguese).
During the Rare Earth Research Conference, held in Ames, Iowa in June 2017, C&EN Magazine spoke with Professor Gisele Azimi on rare earth elements and their increasingly important role in our society today. You can read excerpts of the exchange here.