- Focus: Improving our understanding of selenium (Se) and tellurium (Te) concentration in the Earth's crust, to inform cost-effective and environmental recovery processes.
- Funding: Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)
We are tackling the security of tellurium (Te) and selenium (Se) supply by understanding the processes that govern how and where these elements are concentrated in the Earth's crust.
The research also focuses on enabling Te and Se recovery with minimal environmental and economic cost.
This is the first holistic study of the Te and Se cycle through the Earth's crust, integrated with ground-breaking ore-processing research.
As E-tech elements, Te and Se are considered crucial to the production and more efficient use of energy in the future. Specifically, Te and Se are essential to the production of photovoltaic (PV) solar panels. They are rare and mined only in small quantities because:
- their location within the Earth is poorly known
- recovery is technically and economically challenging
- recovery and recycling can have significant environmental impacts
Despite this, demand is expected to surge in the coming years. By 2020, photovoltaic film production will consume most mined Se supplies, and will outstrip Te supply completely.
Our results are relevant to a range of stakeholders:
- Industry: enabling efficient exploration for new Te and Se deposits, adaptation of processing techniques to recover Te and Se from existing deposits and the use of new low-energy, low-environmental impact recovery technologies.
- National agencies: improving estimates of future Te and Se supplies for end-users, who will benefit from increased confidence in security of supply.
- International governments: informing future energy strategies.
- Public: providing unhindered development of sustainable environmental technologies to support a low-carbon society.
Mineralogical analysis is essential in order for us to understand the formation processes of ore deposits and define resources. It will contribute to key questions relating to the hydrothermal mineralogy and geometallurgy of Te and Se. We will also make an assessment of the potential to bio-recover Se and Te.
Leicester, Aberdeen, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Durham, Open, Dundee, Monash Universities; James Hutton Institute, USGS,
Olympus, Platina, Vale, AngloGold Ashanti, Lion One Metals, Mount Isa Mines, Scotgold, Geological Survey of Cyprus, Hellenic Mining, ASARCO, SOPAC, Micromine, 5NPlus, Vatukoula Gold Mines
Critical elements projects
This project is part of the critical elements project within the Museum's sustainability initiative. Other projects include: