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MEI Online: Commodities: Metallic Ores: Rare Earths & Thorium: Latest News: August 26th 2011


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:: Rare Earth Elements Recovery from Scrap Electronics

Rare earth elements have been highlighted as being at high supply risk for clean technologies. Of particular concern are neodymium (Nd) and dysprosium (Dy) which are used to produce permanent magnets. Neodymium-iron-boron (NdFeB) magnets, which often contain Dy, are used in many high-tech applications and clean technologies, including consumer electronics, motors in electric/hybrid vehicles and generators in onshore wind turbines. China produces more than 95% of the world’s rare earth materials, and last year cut export quotas by 30-40%.

One solution to this shortage is recycling the existing stock of material contained within scrap devices. However, there are enormous technical problems in recovering small quantities within electronic devices, but researchers at the University of Birmingham, UK have developed processes for extracting NdFeB magnets from electrical devices using hydrogen gas, and a pilot plant has been built at the University with the aim of separating sintered NdFeB magnets from scrap electronics. Two patent applications on this technology have been filed by the University of Birmingham.




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