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Hitachi technology to recycle rare-earth magnets

Japan – In order to become more self-sufficient in rare earths, Japanese manufacturer Hitachi has developed a more efficient system to recycle rare-earth magnets from discarded technology.

The company has devised innovative machinery which is said to be capable of extracting 100 magnets per hour compared to the current manual approach which enjoys a typical extraction rate of around 12 magnets per hour.

‘We need to make sure we have a stable supply of these materials and recycling is part of that,’ observes Kenji Baba, General Manager of Hitachi’s resource recycling office. ‘Now we have to work on bringing costs down.’ Through this recycling effort, the company hopes to boost its use of recycled rare-earth materials to 10% by 2013 from around zero at present.

Although rare-earth minerals are relatively common in the Earth’s crust, few nations or companies have invested in sourcing these materials. But as prices rise with China looking to safeguard its own supplies, there is now a greater incentive to open up new sources. Celebrating its 100th anniversary, Hitachi’s ‘green’ shift is being replicated among other Japanese companies: for example, Samsung made a US$ 4.3 billion commitment to green technologies in July last year.

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