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Acid-free dissolving to get at rare-earths

A rare-earth magnet recycling process developed by the US based Critical Materials Institute (CMI) – led by Ames Laboratory – can dissolve magnets in an acid-free solution and recover high-purity rare-earths.

For shredded magnet-containing electronic wastes such as computer hard drives, the process does not require pre-sorting or demagnetisation.

Rare-earths are vital to many technologies and are critical ingredients in the world’s strongest magnets, but they are subject to supply shortages. Recycling until now has faced serious economic and ecological challenges.

Lead researcher Ikenna Nlebedim said: “The difficulty with traditional hydrometal-lurgical methods for rare-earth magnet recycling is that they rely on the use of hazardous mineral acids. This produces toxic fumes, the acids need to be contained and so do acid-contaminated wastes.”

The new process has been adapted for the recovery of rare-earths from both neodymium-iron-boron and samarium-cobalt magnets. Other valuable by-products of WEEE can be recovered for recycling including copper, chromium, nickel, other metals or their composites.

Science Daily

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