In the present research on rare earth extraction from rare earth oxides (REOs), conversion of rare earth oxides into rare earth fluorides with fluoride fluxes is investigated in order to overcome the problem of low solubility of the rare earth oxides in molten fluoride salts as well as the formation of oxyfluorides in the fluorination process. Based on thermodynamic calculations, a series of experiments were performed for converting the rare earth oxides into rare earth fluorides using AlF3, ZnF2, FeF3, and Na3AlF6 as fluorinating agents in a LiF–Nd2O3 system. The formation of neodymium fluoride as a result of the reactions between these fluxes and neodymium oxide is confirmed. The rare earth fluoride thus formed can subsequently be processed through the electrolysis route in the same reactor, and rare earth metal can be produced as the cathodic deposit. In this concept, the REO dissolution in molten fluorides would become unnecessary due to the complete conversion of the oxide into the fluoride, REF3. The results of XRD and EPMA analysis of the reacted samples indicate that AlF3, ZnF2, and FeF3 can act as strong fluorinating agents for the neodymium oxide giving rise to a complete conversion of neodymium oxide into neodymium fluoride.
- Rare earth oxides