Beaver Tales: Brewer knows the business of elements

By Dan Fagan
University Communications

BEATRICE, Neb. – As a chemistry major at Minot State, Joseph Brewer (‘04) studied the elements of the periodic table. Today, he has made a name for himself by revolutionizing the way we recycle and reuse those elements from materials that would otherwise go to waste. 

Brewer is the founder and Chief Technology Officer of Rare Earth Salts, a company that uses various techniques to separate and refine all 16 rare earth elements from waste products, such as mining waste and recycled fluorescent light bulbs, so that they can be utilized in the manufacturing of other products, like cellphones.

Before starting Rare Earth Salts, Brewer earned both a Master’s of Science degree in physical chemistry and a Ph.D. in inorganic chemistry from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and from his doctorate and post-doctorate research developed five patents based on rare earth technologies. 

Brewer started his first company, Rare Earth Solar, based on one of his patents to develop a highly efficient solar panel using rare earth elements. However, a trade war with China, and a rise in prices, led to the solar market drying up and ultimately spelling the end of Brewer’s maiden enterprise. 

Looking to capitalize on the progress he had already made, Brewer recognized a domestic shortage of rare earth elements in the U.S. and developed the technology used to start Rare Earth Salts.

“I’ve never viewed success as a place, or singular accomplishment, but as a mentality,” Brewer said. 

Rare Earth Salts is comprised of both research facilities and in-house development and is an anomaly in the rare earth industry as most production takes place in China. But according to Brewer, Rare Earth Salts is a company that can deliver services in a more efficient way.

“Our technology is greener and can produce rare earth elements at a lower cost per unit,” Brewer said.

Brewer’s contributions to the rare earth industry has been featured in National Geographic Magazine which profiled Rare Earth Salts in 2016.

“It’s been a long and arduous process,” Brewer said of his journey, “but if you learn to be okay with making mistakes, and you keep going, there’s nothing better than being a part of something like this.”  

About Minot State University
Minot State University is a public university dedicated to excellence in education, scholarship, and community engagement achieved through rigorous academic experiences, active learning environments, commitment to public service, and a vibrant campus life.

Published: 04/10/20   

» More MSU News