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Cost-effective Rare Earth Element Recycling Process from Industrial Scrap and Discarded Electronic Products to Valuable Magnetic Alloys and Permanent Magnets

EPA Contract Number: EPD13047
Title: Cost-effective Rare Earth Element Recycling Process from Industrial Scrap and Discarded Electronic Products to Valuable Magnetic Alloys and Permanent Magnets
Investigators: Liu, Jinfang
Small Business: Electron Energy Corporation
EPA Contact: Manager, SBIR Program
Phase: II
Project Period: July 29, 2013 through July 28, 2015
Project Amount: $300,000
RFA: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) - Phase II (2013)
Research Category: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) , SBIR - Innovation in Manufacturing

Description:

Rare earth element (REE) based Nd-Fe-B and Sm-Co permanent magnets have been widely used because of their excellent magnetic properties. The applications of Nd-Fe-B and Sm-Co rare earth permanent magnets include hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs), power generators for wind turbines, high-performance industrial motors, hard disk drives for computers, travelling wave tubes for satellite communications, headphones and speakers, washing machines and most consumer electronic devices. An electric car like GM'’s Chevrolet Volt uses seven pounds of rare-earth magnets, while each clean-energy wind turbine uses more than 600 pounds of neodymium (Nd). China accounts for 97 percent of global REE production, and this monopoly creates a strategic vulnerability for the United States and undermines our national security and competitiveness in the defense and clean-energy sectors. Rare earth shortages also could cause major supply-chain problems for U.S. green energy and technology companies. In a typical neodymium-iron-boron (Nd-Fe-B) magnet manufacturing facility, about 20-30 percent of the magnets are wasted as scrap, which is an estimated 1,500-2,500 tons/year. In the case of Sm-Co magnets, about 15-30 percent of the raw materials are wasted as scrap at a typical Sm-Co manufacturing site. Therefore, the recycling of rare earth-based magnets has gained increasing attention and importance in the permanent magnet industry. To date, only very small quantities of REEs (estimated at 1%) have been recycled from pre-consumer magnet scrap. The goal of this project is to develop a scalable, efficient and low-cost manufacturing method to recycle rare earth-based magnets from industrial scrap into valuable magnetic alloys and high-performance magnets with tailored properties for specific applications.

Supplemental Keywords:

Electronics recycling, industrial scrap, magnets, magnetic alloys, neodymium, rare earth element, recycling, SBIR, Nd-Fe-B magnet scraps, Sm-Co magnet scraps, e-waste recycling


SBIR Phase I:

Cost-Effective Rare Earth Element Recycling Process from Industrial Scrap and Discarded Electronic Products to Valuable Magnetic Alloys and Permanent Magnets  | Final Report

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The perspectives, information and conclusions conveyed in research project abstracts, progress reports, final reports, journal abstracts and journal publications convey the viewpoints of the principal investigator and may not represent the views and policies of ORD and EPA. Conclusions drawn by the principal investigators have not been reviewed by the Agency.

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