Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Urgent need to recycle rare metals

Date:
February 17, 2014
Source:
SINTEF
Summary:
Rare earth metals are important components in green energy products such as wind turbines and eco-cars. But the scarcity of these metals is worrying the European Union.

Rare earth metals are important components in green energy products such as wind turbines and eco-cars. But the scarcity of these metals is worrying the EU.

The demand for metals such as neodymium (Nd) and dysprosium (Dy) is increasing much faster than production. These metals are used in technologies such as the generators that store power in wind turbines, and the electric motors that propel electric and hybrid cars. But they are also used in everyday products like computers and mobile phones.

Rare earth metals do occur in Earth's crust, but not in sufficiently high concentrations. This is why only one country -- China -- has so far been supplying the entire world with these elements. However, in recent years, China has begun to restrict its export of these materials.

Forecasts show that as early as next year, these metals will be hard to come by.

Clean material

This explains why the recycling of rare earth metals from scrap is fast becoming an important research topic. Seven major European research institutes (Fraunhofer, CEA, TNO, VTT, SINTEF, Tecnalia and SP) have joined forces to invest in a joint programme (Value from Waste) aimed at tackling this important issue.

"The aim is to extract valuable materials from the waste streams. The challenges lie in the fact that the material must be sufficiently clean in order to be recycled, and we have to be sure that it is not contaminated by other harmful materials," explains Odd Lψvhaugen of SINTEF ICT.

Researchers are therefore focusing much of their work on finding out which products could contain pollutants, which methods are best for analysing and measuring the content of the polluted materials, and when such products can be expected to be found in waste.

They are also evaluating extraction methods, techniques to recycle nanoparticles in the treatment process, and how the constituents of ash can be analysed after incineration.

Technology from the aluminium and smelting industry

SINTEF is coordinating this major EU programme, which is using two groups of material technologies in the race to find good analytical and extraction methods. The approach chosen by the researchers involves a technology well-known from the aluminium and smelting industry. In the search for sources of recycling material, many people have been considering permanent magnets. This is the most significant product to contain rare earth metals -- measured both in terms of value and volume.

Discarded magnets

On the basis of tests, SINTEF researchers believe that the electrolysis technology used in aluminium plants can be used to recycle magnetic alloys from discarded magnets and scrap material from magnet manufacturers. It will take some time before there are enough scrap eco-cars to be able to recycle their motors, which is why they are turning to the magnet manufacturers for the magnetic alloys. However, the process is still slow, and there is a lot of work still to be done before the researchers will know whether they will be able to achieve their goal. If they are successful, they will have found a method that is much simpler than alternative processes based on the use of strong acids.

Solutions needed

Several other problems must also be solved for the stages before the electrolysis process. Among other things, we need collection and disassembly methods for used magnets, and the magnets themselves must also be demagnetised locally, since the long-distance transport of intact permanent magnets is prohibited.

"Other challenges include finding methods that can identify and characterise nanoparticles in gases, water and solid materials," says Odd Lψvhaugen. "And we must create a toolbox of methods to evaluate the behaviour of nanoparticles in waste treatment processes."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by SINTEF. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

SINTEF. "Urgent need to recycle rare metals." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 February 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140217102543.htm>.
SINTEF. (2014, February 17). Urgent need to recycle rare metals. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140217102543.htm
SINTEF. "Urgent need to recycle rare metals." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140217102543.htm (accessed October 1, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Earth Has Lost Half Its Vertebrate Wildlife Since 1970: WWF

Earth Has Lost Half Its Vertebrate Wildlife Since 1970: WWF

Newsy (Sep. 30, 2014) — A new study published by the World Wide Fund for Nature found that more than half of the world's wildlife population has declined since 1970. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Seismic Activity Halts Recovery at Japan Volcano

Seismic Activity Halts Recovery at Japan Volcano

AP (Sep. 30, 2014) — Rescuers were forced to suspend plans to recover at least two dozen bodies from near the summit of Mount Ontake in central Japan on Tuesday after increased seismic activity raised concern about the possibility of another eruption. (Sept. 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dolphins Might Use Earth's Magnetic Field As A GPS

Dolphins Might Use Earth's Magnetic Field As A GPS

Newsy (Sep. 30, 2014) — A study released Monday suggests dolphins might be able to sense the Earth's magnetic field and possibly use it as a means of navigation. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
How To Battle Stink Bug Season

How To Battle Stink Bug Season

Newsy (Sep. 30, 2014) — Homeowners in 33 states grapple with stink bugs moving indoors at this time of year. Here are a few tips to avoid stink bug infestations. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins