Did you know that Rare Earth Elements (REEs) are found in just about every technology we use?

Cellphones, laptops, wind turbines, and electric vehicles all use rare earth elements and they are used in many different industries around the world.

Due to their remarkable chemical and physical properties – there are no replacements for them.

The odds of finding a substitute for rare earth elements range from slim to none – and global consumption of rare earth elements has steadily and sharply risen because of rapidly changing technology. 

The demand for REEs is on the rise – and therefore researchers like Ainsely in the Environmental and Life Sciences PhD program at Trent University, are looking for ways to make the removal process as environmentally friendly as possible.


Traditional methods of removing rare earth elements from water can be expensive and destructive to our environment.
Ainsely is finding alternative greener methods to REE extraction that is both environmentally efficient and cost-effective. His research includes removing REEs from water – using algae!

Algae is a versatile and diverse group of aquatic organisms that has the ability to conduct photosynthesis. Ainsely is testing algae’s capability to grow in different conditions and looking for the best condition to grow it for rare earth element removal.

algae2[Image Source: Planet Forward]

The REEs would bind to the algae and then after a period of time, the algae would then be separated from the water.
Ainsely is testing metal removal from lower metal concentration samples in algae.


[Image Source: LiveScience]

Electronic waste is on the rise worldwide – and by using algae to remove REEs, this can pave the way toward a greener and more sustainable future. 

Here is what Ainsley has to say about his Trent University experience:

“My experience at Trent University has been wonderful. I have met amazing people in my lab, the graduate program and the Water Quality Centre, also at the Noblegen lab. The Guéguen lab is a home away from home. The interactions with colleagues and professors are something that cannot be experienced at bigger universities. The professors are approachable, and their collective wisdom helps my research. I loves the university scenery, as it is a calming environment and very natural. Peterborough is beautiful especially in Summer and Fall.”