A critical review of bioleaching of rare earth elements: The mechanisms and effect of process parameters

Payam Rasoulnia, Robert Barthen, Aino Maija Lakaniemi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Rare earth elements (REEs) are important high-tech materials with widespread industrial applications and a high risk of supply disruption. Current physico-chemical methods for REE recovery are energy intensive, complex, and costly. Thus, it is crucial to undertake measures to secure future REE demand and protect the environment as well. Bioleaching as an alternative technology for the recovery and recycling of REEs from a variety of primary and secondary sources has been increasingly explored. The present review provides an overview on REE content of various primary and secondary sources, applied bioleaching microorganisms and methods, reactor setups, as well as a detailed description of known REE leaching mechanisms. The effects of different process parameters including temperature, pH, medium composition, pulp density, and particle size on efficiency of REE leaching are also evaluated in detail.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)378-427
Number of pages50
JournalCritical Reviews in Environmental Science and Technology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2021
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Biohydrometallurgy
  • heterotrophs
  • rare earth elements

Publication forum classification

  • Publication forum level 1

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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