University of Birmingham project successfully recycles rare earth magnets from loudspeakers

October 1, 2021

The University of Birmingham has completed the Rare-Earth Extraction from Audio Products (REAP) project (Courtesy University of Birmingham/Maxx-Studio)

The University of Birmingham, UK, has announced the successful completion of the Rare-Earth Extraction from Audio Products (REAP) project which demonstrates that the rare earth magnets in loudspeakers, currently lost to landfill, can be successfully recycled.

The REAP project was led by HyProMag, a company established by Professor Allan Walton from the School of Metallurgy and Materials, University of Birmingham, with founding directors Professor Emeritus Rex Harris, former head of the university’s Magnetic Materials Group and two Honorary Fellows, Dr John Speight and David Kennedy, who are leading experts in the field. The project also involved European Metal Recycling Ltd, which has a global footprint in metal recycling and sustainability.

European Metal Recycling performed a comprehensive assessment of scrap, encompassing extraction, characterisation of components, degree of pre-processing and potential for automation. The analysis showed that the flat screen television sector holds significant promise for recycling, with approximately 85% of the products containing NdFeB. REAP confirmed the quantity of scrap available from this market, the commercial viability, the suitability of the material for HPMS (Hydrogen Processing of Magnetic Scrap), the properties of the magnets in this sector and provides a strong platform to initiate access to the wider loudspeaker market in the future.

Despite the differences between the two sectors, the average magnet grade is said to have remained fairly consistent. Following extraction and processing, the resulting powders were analysed to confirm the feasibility of using waste from flat screen televisions as feedstock for recycled magnet making.

HyProMag’s strategy is to establish a recycling facility for NdFeB magnets at Tyseley Energy Park in Birmingham to provide a sustainable solution for the supply of NdFeB magnets and alloy powders for a wide range of markets including automotive and electronics.

William Dawes, Chief Executive of Mkango Resources, stated, “This is a significant milestone for HyProMag, University of Birmingham and European Metal Recycling, demonstrating another potential source of both feedstock and route to market for recycled rare earth magnets. Recycling is a key component of Mkango’s ‘mine, refine, recycle’ strategy via its strategic interest in HyProMag, and will become an increasingly important part of the rare earth supply chain in the UK, Europe and elsewhere. HyProMag is well positioned to unlock that supply chain with access to the technology, expertise and network of partnerships to make it happen, and Mkango looks forward to supporting the company as it scales up to commercial production.”

www.birmingham.ac.uk

www.hypromag.com

www.uk.emrgroup.com

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