Removal and Recovery of Rare Earth Elements


Rare earth elements (REEs), such as neodymium, europium, dysprosium, terbium, and yttrium, are sometimes referred to as the “vitamins of modern industry” due to their frequent use in high-tech applications. They are used in fiber optics to carry internet traffic, making gasoline from petroleum, and in items like magnets and lasers. China dominates over 85% of the global production of REEs from primary sources. There is interest in extracting REEs from secondary sources, but current sorbents are often not cost-effective or environmentally friendly. Therefore, there is a need for better methods to recover REEs.

Invention Description

Investigators at the University of Toledo created a sorbent for solid-phase extraction with improved selectivity for REEs. Caffeic acid (CA, 3,4-dihydroxycinnamic acid) is a naturally occurring phenolic compound commonly found in coffee, fruits, and vegetables. It is more eco-friendly and easier to produce than current solutions. Metal coordination is achieved through highly oxygenated and functional moieties, such as catechol, carboxylate, and C=C groups. Utilizing an ethylenediamine crosslinker, a caffeic acid polymer is formed and can be used as a standalone sorbent.


– Removal and recovery of REEs


  • Standalone polymer; no solid support required.
  • Granular and air stable
  • Easy to prepare
  • Minimizes of hazardous and expensive reagents during extraction steps

IP Status: Patent pending


Contact Information

TTO Home Page:

Name: Katherine Pollard

Title: Licensing Associate

Department: Technology Transfer


Phone: 419-530-6228