Cost-Effective Rare Earth Element Recycling Process from Industrial Scrap and Discarded Electronic Products to Valuable Magnetic Alloys and Permanent Magnets

Award Information
Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
Branch: N/A
Contract: EP-D-12-030
Agency Tracking Number: EP-D-12-030
Amount: $80,000.00
Phase: Phase I
Program: SBIR
Awards Year: 2012
Solicitation Year: 2012
Solicitation Topic Code: C
Solicitation Number: N/A
Small Business Information
924 Links Ave., Landisville, PA, 17538-
DUNS: 056771686
HUBZone Owned: N
Woman Owned: N
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: N
Principal Investigator
 Jingang Liu
 (717) 898-2294
Business Contact
 Kathy Hambleton
Phone: (717) 898-2294
Research Institution
Rare-earth element (REE) based Nd-Fe-B and Sm-Co magnets have been widely used because of their excellent magnetic properties. The applications of Nd-Fe-B and Sm-Co rare earth permanent magnets include hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs), power generator for wind turbines, high performance industrial motors, hard disk drives for computers, travelling wave tubes for satellite communications, headphones and speakers, washing machines, and most consumer electronic devices. Electric cars, like GM’s Chevrolet Volt, use seven pounds of rare-earth magnets, while each clean-energy wind turbine uses more than 600 pounds of neodymium. China accounts for 97% of global REE production and has announced that it is cutting production for the first half of 2011 by 35%. The price has increased by 200-900% while the export quotas from China decreased by 72% and export tariffs increased by 15-25%. The Chinese monopoly in REE market creates a strategic vulnerability for the United States and undermines our national security and competitiveness in the defense and clean-energy sectors. Rare Earth shortages could also cause huge supply-chain problems for US green energy and technology companies. In a typical neobymium-iron-boron (ND-Fe-B) magnet manufacturing facility, about 20-30% of the magnets were wasted as scraps in order to machine them to desired shapes, which is estimated to be about 1500-2000 tons/year. In the case of Sm-Co magnets, about 15-30% of the ray materials were wasted as scraps in a typical SM-Co manufacturing sites. Hence REE recovery is on the verge of being the next big thing electronics recycling. To date, only very small quantities of REE (estimated at 1%) have been recycled from pre-consumer scrap. This proposal presents the least expensive approach to recycle Sm-Co and Nd-Fe-B magnet scraps available from magnet manufacturing sites and from E-waste products such as hard disk drives, air conditioners, washing machines, vacuum cleaners, motors and generators, etc. We will develop a process to produce rear earth magnets form magnet scraps with the required magnetic properties for various applications. The goal of this proposal is to develop a scalable, low-cast manufacturing method to recycle rare earth from industrial sites or discarded electronic products into valuable magnetic alloys and high performance magnets.

* Information listed above is at the time of submission. *

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