A Rare Find
Capillary electrophoresis triumphs in tracking down rare earth elements
Joanna Cummings |
Cell phones, lighting, wind turbines, military equipment… many modern technologies rely on rare earth elements (REEs). Comprising the lanthanide series plus scandium and yttrium, REEs are widely distributed in nature, but the challenge is finding sources that contain potentially useful quantities. Neutron activation and inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) methods have been the chief means of tracking down the elusive elements – until now. Three chemists from St Petersburg State University in Russia have developed an alternative for detecting and analyzing REEs more quickly, more cheaply and with good sensitivity: capillary electrophoresis (CE; Capel-105, Lumex) with UV detection (UV mini-1240 spectrophotometer, Shimadzu) (1).
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