Recovery of rare earths from the green lamp phosphor LaPO4:Ce3+,Tb3+ (LAP) by dissolution in concentrated methanesulphonic acid
A process was developed for the recovery of rare earths from terbium-rich lamp phosphor waste. The process consists of a solvometallurgical leaching step with concentrated methanesulphonic acid (MSA) at temperatures between 433 K to 473 K, followed by solvent extraction with the acidic extractant di-(2-ethylhexyl)phosphoric acid (D2EHPA). Preliminary tests were performed on a synthetic lamp phosphor (LaPO4:Ce3+,Tb3+, LAP). The optimised conditions were afterwards applied to a real lamp phosphor waste residue, that was obtained after removal of yttrium and europium from lamp phosphor waste powder by a hydrometallurgical process. The leaching can be carried out at lower temperatures than digestion in concentrated sulphuric acid or fused alkali. The process takes advantage of the much higher solubility of the rare-earth methanesulphonates compared to the corresponding sulphates, so that solvent extraction can be performed directly on the leachate after dilution, without the need of several additional steps to convert the rare-earth sulphates into chlorides or nitrates.