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Recycling loudspeaker magnets for REEs

Bham University, HyProMag create REAP to meet demand Metal Tech News – October 6, 2021


Last updated 7/12/2022 at 1:11pm

University Birmingham UK REAP HyProMag neodymium-iron-boron speakers recycling

Speakers account for roughly 20% of rare earth magnet use.

The University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom Sept. 30 announced the completion of a project demonstrating the recycling of loudspeaker magnets for their valuable rare earth elements.

Approximately 20% of all rare earth magnets go into loudspeakers. Recycling of otherwise landfill-lost rare earth magnets from these speakers offers a significant opportunity for these resources, particularly in the UK, which has no domestic source of primary rare earth metals.

The Rare-Earth Extraction from Audio Products program was established by Professor Allan Walton from the School of Metallurgy and Materials, as well as Rex Harris, John Speight, and David Kennedy, founding directors of Hypromag Ltd., which is leading the REAP project.

HyProMag licensed the patented recycling technology called hydrogen recycling of magnet scrap (HPMS) that was developed at the University of Bermingham to extract and de-magnetize the neodymium-iron-boron alloy powders embedded in loudspeakers from end-of-life cars and flat-screen TVs.

The alloy powders then undergo purification and re-compaction to produce new magnets with magnetic properties comparable to the initial product. The project also confirmed the quantity and economics of recycling loudspeaker magnets and provides a strong platform for scale-up production.

"HyProMag is very pleased to have successfully completed this groundbreaking project, which has identified a useful and accessible source of end-of-life magnets that can be collected, extracted and remanufactured on a commercially viable basis," said Nick Mann, operations general manager of HyProMag. "As demand and therefore price of neodymium-iron-boron magnets continues to rise, the need to capture waste material for recycling becomes imperative for economic as well as environmental reasons."

The REAP project is also joined by European Metal Recycling Ltd., which has a global footprint in metal recycling and sustainability.

European Metal Recycling performed a comprehensive assessment of scrap, encompassing extraction, characterization of components, degree of pre-processing, and potential for automation. At the same time, HyProMag and the University of Birmingham provided analysis of the extracted magnets focusing on determining the recyclability and market potential, both as a viable feedstock of neodymium-iron-boron and also as a potential route-to-market.

"REAP further advances the novel techniques required to recycle rare earth magnets from audio products, which account for around 20% of the neodymium-iron-boron market each year. HyProMag looks forward to developing these techniques alongside European Metal Recycling with a view to further scale-up and commercialization," added Mann.

HyProMag's strategy is to establish a recycling facility for neodymium-iron-boron magnets at Tyseley Energy Park in Birmingham to provide a sustainable solution for the supply of these magnets and alloy powders for a wide range of markets, including, for example, automotive and electronics.


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