New, simple technology to recycle rare earth minerals

The critical materials Institute (CMI) under US Department of Energy (USDOE) has developed a technology which helps recycle, recover and extract rare earth minerals. The technology has been licensed to US Rare Earths.

The membrane solvent extraction system developed by CMI partners Oak Ridge and Idaho national laboratories is the first commercially licensed technology so developed.

According to CMI Director Alex King the whole process of development from idea to licensed technology was completed in two years.

Ramesh Bhave, a researcher with Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) who led the research, said conventional methods of recycling critical materials from electronic waste had been limited by inefficient processing technologies which were costly and environmentally hazardous.

“The new, simplified process eliminates many of these barriers,” Bhave says. “Our single-step process to recover rare earth elements from scrap magnets is more environmentally friendly and has the potential to be a more cost-effective approach compared to conventional routes such as precipitation.”

The technology employs a combination of hollow fiber membranes, organic solvents and neutral extractants to selectively recover rare earth elements such as neodymium, dysprosium and praseodymium.

These elements play a vital role in permanent magnets used in cars, cell phones, hard disk drives, computers and electric motors.

According to a report, the membrane extraction technology was able to recover more than 90 percent of neodymium, dysprosium and praseodymium in a highly pure form from scrap neodymium-based magnets in the laboratory.

Ajith Kumar S

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