• Researchers of the University of Oviedo optimize mineral extraction techniques for the technology

    February 11, 2015

    The research group, coordinated by Professor Juan María Menéndez Aguado, will analyze the latest technologies aimed at improving the extraction of tungsten and tantalum, two minerals that are essential to manufacture electronic devices.

    Coltan is a mineral extensively used nowadays by technology-based industries in their products.

    A multidisciplinary research group of the University of Oviedo will take part in the OptimOre project, a European initiative financed in the framework of the Horizon 2020 programme, to improve the process of mineral extraction and recover tungsten and tantalum, two raw materials essential for technology-based industries. The project, financed with more than 5 million euros, is expected to last three years, and is joined by eight partners in Spain, Germany, United Kingdom and Sweden.

    Twelve researchers of the Asturian academic institution coordinated by professor Juan María Menéndez Aguado of the Department of Mining Exploitation and Prospecting, will work together to apply a new technology which allows more efficient recovery of tungsten and tantalum. Both chemical components are included in the EU list of Critical Raw Material for the development of the technology industry, due to the scarcity of these minerals in our continent.

    Some technological materials and many components of mobile telephones, computers, GPS and other electronic devices require one of these two elements to be manufactured. Worldwide reserves of Tantalum are located in Africa and it is necessary to optimize its production to the maximum possible extent, in order to guarantee the supply does not mean a bottleneck for the field of the technology industry.

    The objective of OptimOre is to improve the use of this material and achieve a more efficient recovery of both resources and also a more efficient use of energy. The Asturian researchers will join all areas of the Project, but will have a prominent role in two of the models in the OptimOre project: the selection of which technology to test to optimize mineral recovery, and the improvement of the grinding process.

    "Part of our work will focus on choosing, out of all the technological processes worldwide, which would be the best one when processing these minerals", professor Menéndez Aguado explains. The development of mathematical models that allow us to describe each process and the implementation of new industrial control methods, are also priorities of this research.

    The OptimOre project, financed with more than 5 million euros, has 8 partners in Spain, Germany, United Kingdom and Sweden.

    Researchers of the University of Oviedo will work together with experts of the University of Exeter, Chalmers Techniska Hoegskola (Sweden), Polytechnic University of Catalunya, Techniche Universitaet Bergakademie Freiberg (Germany) and business partners from United Kingdom, Germany and Spain.

    Research Team of the University of Oviedo

    • Department of Exploitation and Mining Prospection
      • Juan María Menéndez Aguado, José Luis Rodríguez Gallego
      • Miguel Angel Rodriguez Diaz
      • Celestino Ordoñez Galán
      • Gloria González García
      • Dorliana López Ortiz
    • Department of Electronic, Electrical, Computer and System Engineering
      • Manuel Garcia Melero
      • Francisco Pedrayes Gonzalez
      • Joaquín Gonzalez Norniella
    • Department of Chemical Engineering and Environmental Technology
      • Manuel Mahamud Lopez
    • Department of Business Administration
      • Nuria López Mielgo
    • Department of Construction and Manufacturing Engineering:
      • José Luis Viesca Rodríguez

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    Coltan grains.