German scientists have developed a new method to efficiently extract rare earth metals such as Yttrium, Praseodymium and Dysprosium from deep-sea rocks.
As millions of smartphones and other electronic gadgets are being developed every year using rare earth metals, supplies of these high-tech materials may become scarce, 'Discovery News' reported.
A new study by German geochemists has now found that an untapped source of rare earth elements may lie under the sea.
The potential deep-sea sources of rare earth elements are nodules of iron and manganese that are abundant on the ocean floor.
These nodules, called ferromanganese deposits, build slowly over time as dissolved iron and manganese in seawater attaches to seafloor sediments.
Researchers developed a method to efficiently extract these rare earth metals using the solvent desferrioxamine-B, the report said.
The solvent binds more strongly to some metals than others and when applied to ferromanganese nodules, effectively and efficiently extracts rare earth metals, leaving other metals behind in the nodules.
Researchers were able to extract up to 80 per cent of four rare earth metals from ferromanganese nodules by refining their ore-leaching method.
The study was published in the journal Applied Geochemistry.