New project launches focusing on the sustainable reprocessing of rare-earth magnets.

[Pforzheim, Baden-[Pforzheim, Baden-Württemberg] — On June 3-4, 2019, the first phase of a four-year EU-funded research and innovation project began with a kick-off event in Pforzheim, Germany.

The project, called SUSMAGPRO (full title: Sustainable Recovery, Reprocessing and Reuse of Rare-Earth Magnets in a Circular Economy) was granted funding from Horizon 2020 programme of the European Commission and consists of 19 project partners including INSERMA ANOIA, S.L. and one associated partner from nine European countries.

The main objective of this project is to develop a recycling supply chain for Rare-Earth magnets in Europe and to demonstrate these new materials on a pilot scale within a range of application sectors.

The partners represent stakeholders from industry, academia, and technology transfer organisations and gathered for the first time in Pforzheim in June to discuss their challenges, expectations, and overall management for the project. SUSMAGPRO’s Coordinator is Pforzheim University (Germany), represented by Prof. Carlo Burkhardt of the Institute for Precious Metals and Technology.

SUSMAGPRO’s ambition is to revolutionise how magnets are recycled. It tackles the important challenge of recovering and reprocessing rare-earth-elements (REEs) from performant magnets. Rare-Earth (RE) magnets based upon Neodymium-Iron-Boron (NdFeB, also containing Dysprosium) are used in a wide range of high-tech industries, such as automotive, aerospace, e-mobility, wind power generation, and consumer goods. However, in recent years the supply of these materials has come under considerable pressure and Neodymium and Dysprosium are now deemed to be of greatest supply risk for all elements.

Europe imports far more NdFeB magnets than it manufactures (>1,000 tonnes manufactured per annum) and currently have a recycling rate in Europe of < 1%. These materials are critical components of several high-tech industries which puts its industry in a vulnerable position.

The aim of SUSMAGPRO is to identify, separate, reprocess and reuse recycled magnets at a pilot scale with a multidisciplinary team located across Europe, activating a circular economy business model. Instead of dumping this critical resource in landfill sites or exporting are RE-containing waste to other parts of the globe, SUSMAGPRO will use the latest technology to extract the elements from magnets scrap, and will use short-loop circular economy routes to re-integrate the metals into new products for the European market. The project will target main applications including automotive rotors, water pumps, loudspeakers and wind turbines.

“In view of the current discussions about import tariffs in the Trump trade war, China is considering restricting exports of rare earths to the US. European industry would also be severely affected, so this matter is unfortunately more pressing than ever”, says Prof. Burkhardt.

The project will develop new sensing and robotic sorting lines for the identified end of life (EoL) products, building upon technologies developed in the previous project REMANENCE (EU FP7 research and innovation programme, GA No. 310240).

New hydrogen-based technologies will be demonstrated at scale for separating and purifying NdFeB powders from the robotically sorted parts and this technology will be duplicated at a second location. The separated powders will be re-manufactured into sintered magnets, injection moulded magnets, metal injection moulded magnets and cast alloys, at 4 different companies across 3 countries, building upon work from the previous project REProMag (EU H2020 research and innovation programme, GA No. 636881).

A techno-economic assessment will be performed for each potential recycling route alongside a life cycle assessment of the environmental benefits over primary production. The project will also initiate important discussions on design for recycling and relevant standardisation topics and will organise knowledge and technology transfer in the frame of trainings.

A travelling roadshow in the second half of the project will engage the local population across different European cities to increase awareness about the challenges linked to RE magnets and the solutions proposed by SUSMAGPRO thanks to EU funding. The roadshow will give the opportunity to test and compare products with conventional and SUSMAGPRO magnets.

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Project duration: 06/2019 – 05/2023

Coordination: Prof. Carlo Burkhardt of the Institute for Precious Metals and Technology, Pforzheim University (Germany)

Countries: Austria, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom

Funding: European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 821114

REMANENCE project:

REProMag project:

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