Jiakai Zhang a, John Anawati a, Gisele Azimi a,b,*
a Laboratory for Strategic Materials, University of Toronto, Department of Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry, 200 College Street, Toronto, Ontario M5S 3E5,
b Department of Materials Science and Engineering, University of Toronto, 184 College Street, Toronto, Ontario M5S 3E4, Canada
There is a significant global push towards recycling of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) to enable the circular economy. In this study an environmentally sustainable process using supercritical carbon dioxide as the solvent, along with a small volume of tributyl-phosphate-nitric acid (TBP-HNO3) adduct as the chelating agent, is developed to extract rare earth elements (REEs) from fluorescent lamp waste. It is found that mechanical activation using oscillation milling improves extraction efficiency. To elucidate the process mechanism, an in-depth characterization of solids before and after the process using transmission electron microscopy (TEM) and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) is performed. Furthermore, UV visible spectroscopy is performed to determine the coordination chemistry of the rare earths of interest, i.e., yttrium, europium, and terbium during the complexation with TBP-HNO3 adduct. It is found that Al3+ and Ca2+ cations from the aluminium oxide (Al2O3) and hydroxyapatite (Ca5(PO4)3OH) present in the fluorescent lamp waste compete with REEs in reacting with TBP-HNO3 adduct; hence, REE extractions from real fluorescent lamp waste is less than previously reported extractions from synthetic feeds. Not only can management of fluorescent lamp waste help conserve natural resources and protect ecosystems, but it can also facilitate efficient utilization of materials and promote the circular economy.