The University of Birmingham in the UK and Bentley motors have come together for a three-year research project deal that will identify sustainable sources of rare earths magnets used in cars’ manufacture.
The Office of Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) is funding the £2.6m project. Innovate UK is also part of the deal along with other partners.
Rare earths are found in electric appliances, and their use has increased exponentially over the past few years. The project will build on technology developed by Prof Allan Walton from the University of Birmingham. The technology is called Hydrogen Processing of Magnet Scrap (HPMS). The technology looks at how we can extract rare earth metals from waste electronics by breaking them into an easily separated powder from the remaining components.
Mkango Resources has provided the project with substantial support.
According to this press release, “The project will develop a process to recycle magnets extracted from computer hard drives to make rare earth magnets for use in bespoke ancillary motors and will involve HyProMag scaling up the recycling techniques developed at the University of Birmingham.”
Bentley Motors said that the project will also repurpose the extracted magnetic material into new recyclable magnets for use within bespoke ancillary motors.
There is a global race on for securing the rare earths supply chain. Many of the elements are actually not so “rare”. The elements are found in abundance throughout the earth’s crust with two or more of the elements occurring together in its mineral form due to their chemical similarities. The challenge lies in extraction. Separating these elements from one another is often quite difficult.
Watch our video about China and US on rare earths here.