Ames Laboratory Improving Process to Recycle Rare-Earth Materials

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"Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's Ames Laboratory are working to more effectively remove the neodymium, a rare earth element, from the mix of other materials in a magnet."

Recycle Critical Metals

Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Ames Laboratory are working to more effectively remove the neodymium, a rare earth element, from the mix of other materials in a magnet. Initial results show recycled materials maintain the properties that make rare-earth magnets useful.

The current rare earth recycling research builds on Ames Laboratory's decades of rare-earth processing experience. In the 1990s, Ames Lab scientists developed a process that uses molten magnesium to remove rare earths from neodymium-iron-boron magnet scrap. Back then, the goal was to produce a mixture of magnesium and neodymium because the neodymium added important strength to the alloy, rather than separate out high-purity rare earths because, at the time, rare earth prices were low.

But rare earth prices increased ten-fold between 2009 and 2011 and supplies are in question. Therefore, the goal of today's rare-earth recycling research takes the process one step farther. . .View Full Article

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