Metalysis process creates rare earth metals

December 18, 2012

Metalysis has announced that it has successfully demonstrated the production of rare earth metals using the company’s transformational metal production technology. The UK based company states that it has produced the rare earth metals neodymium, terbium, and a terbium-nickel based alloy for the first time. 

When compared to existing methods for rare earth production, the Metalysis process is an energy efficient and lower cost process because it produces the metals directly from oxides in a single step. Producing these metals at reduced cost and with a lower impact on the environment will widen access to these metals, and the resulting magnets, which offer crucial functionality in a vast array of technologies.

The main demand for rare earth production comes from their use as magnets in hard drives and motors, as well as catalysts and, they are increasingly being used in clean energy technology such as wind turbines and electric cars. The rare earths are used to make vital magnets in all of these components.

Rare earths are usually refined into highly pure oxides once they are recovered in mines, which then have to be processed into their metal form or alloyed with other metals for use as magnets in electronic components. Existing processes are highly energy intensive as they react the metal oxide or chloride either at high temperatures or use extremely toxic chemicals.

The Metalysis process is also capable of making alloys in one step, and the company added that it will now work on producing magnetic alloys in larger quantities, neodymium-iron-boron being a specific example of this.  Currently, these alloys are created by mixing all the individual elements together before melting them to yield ingots of the desired alloy, these then have to be processed further to produce powders. This involves numerous steps to obtain a homogeneous product, therefore by adopting the Metalysis process to manufacture the alloyed powder directly, the overall number of stages, and hence energy requirement, is significantly reduced.

Guppy Dhariwal, CEO at Metalysis stated, “Using the Metalysis process to successfully create rare earth metals means we can replicate the success we have achieved in the development of a process for high value metals such as titanium and tantalum. The Metalysis process will help develop the new sources of rare earths from countries outside of China by processing them using our new, environmentally benign, lower cost production process.” 


Posted by: Paul Whittaker, Editor, [email protected]   

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