University in West Virginia developing REE research center

Concord University in southern West Virginia has been awarded $642,000 in funding for the development of a research center to analyze rare earth elements (REEs) in coal and coal byproducts.

The appropriations funding is thanks to state senator Joe Manchin, who secured it for the Mercer County institution via the Fiscal Year 2023 Omnibus Appropriations bill.

Concord will expand its existing laboratory infrastructure by building a prototype for a new instrument specially optimized for measuring REEs and other economically critical elements present in trace quantities. The instrument will offer capabilities to government, academia and the private sector.

The research center will use Electron Probe Microanalysis (EPMA), a major analytical and micro-imaging technique commonly applied to natural and synthetic solid materials. EPMA combines electron microscopy and X-ray spectroscopy techniques into a single instrument and provides fine scale micro-imaging and quantitative chemical analysis down to a scale of 1/1000th of a millimeter.

The school said it already has a 12-year track record of operating the only EPMA facility in West Virginia and hosts instrument hardware that provides an ideal platform for developing enhanced capabilities.

“Concord University continues to make our state proud with innovative scientific research, which is why I successfully fought to secure this funding to help establish their new research center,” said Senator Manchin.

“The initiative will help expand our knowledge about rare earth elements in coal and coal byproducts, as well as other critical minerals, and the Mountain State is the ideal location for this groundbreaking research that can improve our energy security. As chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and as a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I will continue working with federal, state and local leaders to support scientific research opportunities across West Virginia.”

School president Kendra Boggess noted that the project will enhance economic development “by establishing core infrastructure to attract and support new research enterprise” in the region.

“We are eager not only to offer this opportunity to Concord students, but to facilitate development of regional REE natural resources for southern West Virginia and beyond.”

Source: Concord University 

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