The conventional oxalate method for precipitating thorium and the rare earth elements in acid solution exhibits definite solubilities of these elements. The present work was undertaken to establish conditions overcoming these solubilities and to find optimum conditions for precipitating thorium and the rare earth elements as hydroxides and sebacates. The investigations resulted in a reliable procedure applicable to samples in which the cerium group elements predominate. The oxalate precipitations are made from homogeneous solution at pH 2 by adding a prepared solution of anhydrous oxalic acid in methanol instead of the more expensive crystalline methyl oxalate. Calcium is added as a carrier. Quantitative precipitation of thorium and the rare earth elements is ascertained by further small additions of calcium to the supernatant liquid, until the added calcium precipitates as oxalate within 2 minutes. Calcium is removed by precipitating the hydroxides of thorium and rare earths at room temperature by adding ammonium hydroxide to pH > 10. Thorium is separated as the sebacate at pH 2.5, and the rare earths are precipitated with ammonium sebacate at pH 9. Maximum errors for combined weights of thorium and rare earth oxides on synthetic mixtures are ??0.6 mg. Maximum error for separated thoria is ??0.5 mg.
Additional publication details
Determination of thorium and of rare earth elements in cerium earth minerals and ores