Seloxium Ltd., the chemical engineering spin-out from the University of Oxford, has won a prestigious grant from IUK for its £500,000 feasibility study in collaboration with Professor Jon Blundy of the Earth Sciences Department, University of Oxford, to secure a supply of Rare Earth Elements from volcanic tuffs for UK magnet manufacture.
The UK aims to ensure a robust, secure supply of various critical materials, among which are Rare Earth Elements (REE), classed as the most critical due to their various uses in permanent magnets, high strength alloys and other high-tech applications. This project aims to offer an alternative, greener supply of REE from an unconventional source. An innovative 2-step-methodology is proposed to obtain REE by leaching from volcanic tuffs in underground geothermal reservoirs and refining REE-bearing solutions using Seloxium’s patented technology.
This feasibility study will allow Seloxium to determine whether there is an opportunity to reduce the environmental impact of obtaining REE and with stricter environmental regulations, aligning with environmental concerns.
Innovate UK’s Critical Materials for Magnets Competition is part of the circular critical materials supply chains (CLIMATES) programme which has committed £15 million of government funding for cutting-edge research, to strengthen the supply of critical materials that many low-carbon technologies rely upon.
Seloxium is revolutionising the mining and refining sectors by selectively extracting valuable metals from wastewater. Since spinning out from the University of Oxford in 2022, Seloxium has focused on developing and patenting its selective flocculation technology called Selectal™.
Dr Christian Peters, CEO of Seloxium comments: “We are delighted to receive funding and support from Innovate UK in our mission to clean up the environment and strengthen critical minerals value chains. Conventional methods of mining and refining Rare Earth Elements have the disadvantages of high energy consumption, low selectivity, high operating cost, and formation of secondary pollutants. This collaborative project between Seloxium and The University of Oxford will develop a novel 2-step system that can obtain critical Rare Earth Elements from a new source and refine them in a green and sustainable way, boosting the Rare Earth Elements supply chain for the UK. Seloxium's technology Selectal™ provides high purity metals with a 90-98% lower carbon footprint at a cost, purity, scale, and speed not attainable using competing technologies.”
Prof. Jon Blundy, Royal Society Research Professor at the University of Oxford comments: “Geothermal systems associated with volcanoes have the potential to provide both renewable energy and the raw materials needed for the energy transition. This exciting project offers the opportunity to explore ways to harness this potential using volcanic rocks in East Africa well known for having unusually high rare earth element contents and a close association with productive geothermal systems. This grant aligns well with my Royal Society-funded project ‘From Volcanoes to Green Mining’ that explores ways to use volcanic systems in the service of the energy transition”.
Image: Panorama of Corbetti Caldera, a giant volcanic depression in southern Ethiopia produced by the eruption of REE-rich volcanic tuffs approximately 180,000 years ago. Corbetti is the site of ongoing geothermal energy exploration.