Dr. Brewer’s PhD is in Earth and Space Sciences and Astrobiology from the University of Washington – Seattle, and he did much of his research at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, California.
Rare earth elements (REEs) are becoming increasingly significant to the international economy with the widespread use of technologies such as permanent magnets, like those found in hybrid vehicles and consumer electronics. Their recent prevalence has caused an increased risk of REE pollution at potentially hazardous levels.
In the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Weizmann, Dr. Brewer is investigating REE adsorption by detrital plant biomass in order to elucidate how REE pollutants are transported in soils. An improved understanding of these processes could also inform the design of sustainable REE recovery and purification techniques, including possibly using plant material as a solid phase REE extractant. REE extraction efforts and environmental hazard assessments are of immediate importance to Israel and the United States as they are among the world leaders in hi-tech research and development, so they need to safeguard a continuing REE supply and limit the environmental and human health impacts of REE production.