Recovering The Rare Earth: iPad Sulphates

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Introduction

In February I underwent major open heart surgery to replace a leaky aortic valve so have been recovering slowly at home. I also suffer from a Mixed Anxiety and Depressive Disorder, which periodically triggers episodes of severe depression and I use the work and processes described in my blog here to help with my recovery. My heart surgery triggered and episode of cardiac depression, and I’m using the process here to help my recovery from this. This and the process are reflected in the title of the work.

Recovering The Rare Earth: iPad Sulphates

The Rare Earth elements are a group of 17 metallic elements that underpin the unrelenting global demand for new technological products. Materials derived from them have unique properties that are essential for the function of the high-tech consumer products that are now part of our everyday lives such as computers, smart phones, hybrid cars, smartphones, and televisions. The minerals containing the Rare Earth elements are extracted through opencast mining and via chemical processes that have a high and long lasting ecological cost.

In this work, an iPad has been immersed in a solution of concentrated and highly reactive sulphuric acid. Over a period, greater than a year, the acid has reacted with the components of the iPad, including the Rare Earths, to convert them into salts and new minerals of sulphate. In this process, the once thin iPad has expanded due to crystal formation, to thickness of a paperback book, and in which new geological strata to have developed, and so the elements appear to have returned once more to the earth.

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The mineral rich solution of acid and Rare Earth salts have also infiltrated cracks in the screen of the device, forming mineral rich seems, in a mechanism that parallels the natural and geological formation of quartz and metal rich seams, that might be mined and exploited to recover valuable elements.

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