Scientific Director(s): 
Susan Brantley

The Laboratory for Analysis of Strategic Element Resources (LASER) is a world-class research and analytical laboratory that was created to support research focused on identification of mineral deposits that can ultimately produce strategic and critical elements for the sustainable economy. These elements are used in current and emerging applications in superalloys, electronics, and the defense sector, and include rare earth elements (REEs).

Penn State has decades of institutional experience in all aspects of mineral characterization and production, including the current search for economic sources of rare earths in coal byproducts. LASER offers a wide range of research and analytical capabilities. 
Research Capabilities:

  1. Sample preparation techniques such as crushing and grinding of minerals to determine mineral liberation characteristics​
  2. Mineral processing including float and sink testing, flotation, and magnetic and electrostatic separations
  3. Laboratory hydrometallurgy equipment to examine the effect of process conditions and reagents on mineral leaching behavior
  4. Fixed bed, fluid bed, and entrained flow reactors to study calcination, roasting, and other operations with various reactor configurations, particle sizes, and gaseous environments
  5. Thermogravimetric analysis to measure continuous mass loss/gain to determine phase transitions, and reaction kinetics under both oxidizing and reducing environment up to 1100 C and 40 bar pressure

Analytical Capabilties:

  1. Digestion and lithium metaborate fusion
  2. Mineral characterization techniques including X-Ray Diffraction (XRD) for the analysis of crystalline phases; Scanning Electron Microscopy-Energy Dispersive X-Ray Spectroscopy (SEM-EDS) to characterize physical associations of minerals and REEs and their grain sizes; X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) used for rapid screening. 
  3. Elemental state-of-the-art instruments including Inductively Coupled Plasma - Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS) and Inductively Coupled Plasma - Aromic Emission Spectroscopy (ICP-AES).

Sample Matrices

  1. Mineral ores (rocks), coal, coal ash, and wastes from mineral processing and pyrometallurgy
  2. Custom sample preparation from run of mine to ultrafine particles for subsequent analysis