News Release

Scientists synthesise cerium mineral which holds promise for biomedical research

Peer-Reviewed Publication

Trinity College Dublin

Trinity geoscientists have developed a cheap and environmentally friendly method for the synthesis of cerianite, a rare earth mineral which holds promise for the treatment of diseases associated with inflammation, including cancer.

The study, published this week in the journal RSC Advances, also provides new understandings of the occurrence and behaviour of cerianite in natural deposits. The research also expands our knowledge about the exploration, exploitation, and extraction of rare earth minerals (REEs). In addition, the findings have implications for biomedical research, the production of carbon neutral technologies and the material sciences. 

Adrienn Maria Szucs, PhD researcher in Geochemistry, Trinity, and lead author of this study explained: 

“We killed two birds with one stone because we found out why cerianite is associated with REE-carbonates and how exactly it forms in nature and at the same time we produced a cooking book for material engineers with easy recipes for the synthesis of Ce-carbonates and cerianite with different sizes and shapes. On the top of that, the synthesis methods are cost and environmentally efficient. Very convenient!” 

Cerianite or cerium-oxide (CeO2) is a widely used compound used in the sectors (e.g., energy, transportation, electronics and healthcare). It is also a highly promising material for biomedical research due to its antioxidant properties. For example, cerianite nanoparticles are being investigated as therapeutic agents for the treatment of diseases associated with oxidative stress and inflammation, including cancer.

Dr. Juan Diego Rodriguez-Blanco, Associate Professor in Nanomineralogy, Dept of Geology, Trinity, and lead author added: 

Our simple method allows for the production of cerianite with different sizes and shapes. The smallest particles are just a few nanometres and the largest 50 micrometres This will be useful in biomedical sciences, production of carbon neutral technologies and material sciences.“

What have the researchers discovered?

In the study, the researchers synthetised cerianite using various methods with various shapes and sizes by using different crystallisation routes, some of them mimicking natural processes.

They combined two simple fabrication methods at low temperatures. By adjusting parameters such as temperature, duration of the experiment and concentration, they found that cerianite can form via cerium carbonates, acting similarly to other rare earths (e.g., La, Pr, Nd and Dy), however, cerium carbonates eventually decarbonise and form cerianite. 

Their methods provide primary information on the synthesis of nanometric and micrometric cerium carbonate and cerianite. These methods are non-toxic and use common chemicals, thus it is energy- and material-efficient and can be easily replicated. 

This research was funded by the Provost PhD Awards at Trinity and by the Science Foundation Ireland, Geological Survey of Ireland and the Environmental Protection Agency under the SFI Frontiers for the Future Programme.

Notes to editor:

A copy of the open-access paper is available here:

Images available on request.

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