Synthesis and Process Scale Up
The PSI synthesis group occupies a 1,500 ft2 state of the art organic and polymer synthesis laboratory. Fine organic chemicals, including monomers and polymers, can be synthesized and characterized in house on a multi-gram scale. Equipment for the safe synthesis of energetic materials, including protocols, and barriers, are a part of the synthesis lab. PSI maintains a micropilot facility capability of continuously producing energetic materials at the 100s of g scale, and a pilot scale plant in Sharon, PA that processes a half ton per day of coal ash to recover rare earth elements.
Rare Earth Recovery Pilot Plant
Under internal research and development (IRAD) and small business innovation research (SBIR) funding, a PSI team developed a unique process to extract rare earth elements from coal ash, an abundant waste material produced in coal fire power plants. There are billions of tons of coal ash landfilled in the United States. A key feature of the PSI process is the rehabilitation of landfilled coal ash to produce a viable cement substitute material.
As a part of this effort, the PSI team has worked with several university, utility and commercial collaborators (including Winner Water Services) to construct and operate a pilot plant that demonstrates the PSI process. The plant was first commissioned in 2020, and as of 2022 processes a half ton per day of coal ash. The output of the plant is a rare earth concentrate that achieves greater than ninety percent purity.
This one-of-a-kind plant was a first for PSI, in that we took a chemical process performed in beakers and test tubes, and brought it all the way to the pilot scale. The next steps are to work with our government, academic, utility, and commercial partners to scale-up the process further, remediate many tons of coal ash, and produce as much rare earth material as possible.
PSI has designed and constructed continuous microreactor systems and have utilized the microreactor units to synthesize ASCENT propellant ingredients and solid sorbents.