REMANENCE: Decrease Europe’s Dependency on Rare Earth Magnets by Implementing the Circular Economy Model
Rare earth metals are essential in the production of electronics and today 92% of the global production of rare earth magnets comes from China. For the European Commission, the material necessary for the production of these magnets is classified as a critical raw material. But thanks to the research project REMANENCE , Europe might decrease its dependency and increase its recycling rate.
The European research project REMANENCE focuses on the recovery of rare earth magnets inside hard disk drives (HDD). In the UK alone, around 4-5 million HDD are disposed every year with the majority being shredded and only the major materials being recovered. This represents a significant loss of a valuable resource essential for the functioning of modern electronics.
The project developed a new fully automated process using optics and magnetic fields to sort the different models of HDDs, of cutting precisely the edge of the HDD containing the magnet. Through a patented mechanism called hydrogen decrepitation, the magnet is separated from the rest of the material and transformed into a powder ready for reuse to make new magnets.
“Although the composition of magnets changes every year, the reproducibility with the recycled powder of the magnets is exceptional”, says David Gardner, project coordinator at C-Tech.
The project has successfully processed waste HDDs and produced both sintered and bonded magnets at comparable or reduced costs to those made from virgin materials. The European market is one of the biggest consumers of rare earth magnets, and these can provide a valuable source of recycled magnetic material. Furthermore, the price of the raw material is increasing again after a significant drop in 2011-2012. This will help to make this business more profitable, although it has already demonstrated its competitiveness.
REMANENCE will exhibit at the Circular Materials Conference in Gothenburg.
This project has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration under grant agreement No 310240.
This publication reflects only the author’s views. The European Union is not liable for any use that may be made of the information contained herein.
Max Viallon, +34 93 788 23 00
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