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By A.J. Roan
Metal Tech News 

UK SCREAMs for recycled REE magnets

Project REAPs previous work on establishing REE supply chain Metal Tech News – June 15, 2022


Last updated 7/1/2022 at 9:23am

A zoomed in photo of a loudspeaker.

Approximately 20% of all rare earth magnets go into loudspeakers. Recycling otherwise landfill-lost rare earth magnets from these speakers offers a significant opportunity for these resources.

Researchers from the Birmingham Energy Institute, along with several partners, are supporting a new grant-funded project to recycle rare earth magnets from electronic waste, electric motors, and wind turbines for the United Kingdom's critical minerals supply chain.

Secure Critical Rare Earth Magnets for UK, or SCREAM, is a 3.4-million-pound (US$4.1 million) UK Research and Innovation funded project that will establish a recycled source of rare earth magnets in the UK to provide greater security of supply to UK industry while also aiming to achieve a 10% reduction in cost and a significant reduction in environmental impact.

Like many countries in the west, the UK currently has no domestic sources of primary rare earths. With REE magnets playing a key role in clean energy and digital technologies, however, the development of domestic sources of recycled rare earths presents an opportunity for the British Isles to fast-track sustainable and competitive REE magnet production.

Late last year, the University of Birmingham announced the completion of a project demonstrating the recycling of loudspeaker magnets.

The Rare-Earth Extraction from Audio Products program, or REAP, was formed to head the use of the University's Hydrogen Processing of Magnet Scrap (HPMS) technology which was then licensed to HyProMag to extract the alloy powders embedded in loudspeakers.

BEI will work with partners, including the University of Birmingham and HyProMag, to develop a new semi-continuous version of the HPMS, building on the process originally developed and patented by the University of Birmingham's Magnetic Materials Group.

You can read about REAP and HPMS at Recycling loudspeaker magnets for REEs in the October 6, 2021, edition of Metal Tech News.

SCREAM will recover neodymium-iron-boron magnets from not just loudspeakers but also from end-of-life automotive, robotic and separator scrap streams using HPMS and any other technologies to kickstart a UK supply of REE magnet production.

In addition to the University of Birmingham and HyProMag, partners of the SCREAM project further include Bowers & Wilkins, European Metal Recycling, GKN Automotive, Jaguar Land Rover, and Mkango Rare Earths UK Ltd.

"We are delighted to be working with such a talented consortium, to deliver premium products engineered to the highest standards and in doing so forge future relationships," said Nick Mann, operations general manager of HyProMag. "This project will push our magnet making to new levels and prove our ability to offer an alternative to current supply routes."

The extracted rare earth metals will be processed directly from the alloys into sintered magnets on a newly installed production line at the Tyseley Energy Park in Birmingham.

"This leading research project which brings together key industry leaders across multiple sectors is vital to ensuring a secure and sustainable supply chain for next-generation electric powertrains," said Gordon Day, managing director of GKN Automotive Innovation Centre. "Rare earth magnets are a key component of electric motors and developing a robust solution for recovering and reusing them will help us reduce our environmental impact in the future."


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