Gipuzkoa focuses on high-value rare earth recycling from electronic waste

May 5, 2021

The Ceit Technology Centre, a member of the Basque Research & Technology Alliance (BRTA), and the Environmental Department of the Gipuzkoa Provincial Council, Spain, have signed an agreement to develop an advanced recycling process which reduces dependence on foreign imports and allows advanced recycling of neodymium (Nd) from waste magnets. Focussing research on recycling and leveraging rare-earth elements is key to climate change mitigation and facilitating a more circular economy.

The project, which will last for a year, will be managed by the Water and Waste research group, in collaboration with experts in magnetic materials from Ceit’s Materials and Manufacturing division. It will study the feasibility of the use of organic solvents and other environmentally-friendly chemical compounds, such as ion liquids, in solvometallurgical processing of Nd and Dysprosium (Dy) in the form of oxide, with a purity rating higher than 98% and a high process performance.

First, an analysis of the research on magnet recycling and the recovery of elements derived from rare earths, and of the hydrometallurgical and solvometallurgical processes used, will be carried out. The elements necessary to allow experimentation with a solvometallurgical process will then be identified and, finally, preliminary tests will be carried out for the recycling of Neodymium magnets (NdFeB) at laboratory level, which can then elucidate future actions.

In addition, the project also intends to relevant information to the Gipuzkoan companies which may be interested in the acquisition of this technology, such as Metal-78, a spin-off of Ceit, whose activity focuses on the recycling of precious metals of catalytic converters.

Twelve million tonnes of electronics waste is generated annually in Europe, and recycling is considered a priority on the part of the European Union. Neodymium magnets present in this electronic waste offer a great opportunity for use in a circular economy.

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