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MIT study sees growing aluminium challenge

United States – A recent analysis by the Massachusetts Institute for Technology (MIT) in the USA warns that the recycling of aluminium could become a stumbling block for the industry if no steps are taken to reduce impurities that build up as it is repeatedly recycled.

Aluminium engine blocks, in particular, are frequently made from metal with comparatively high levels of impurities; this means they are ill-qualified for advanced applications such as electronic circuits or aerospace materials, say MIT researchers Randolph Kirchain and Elsa Olivetti, who collaborated with Gabrielle Gaustad from Rochester Institute of Technology.

The research team also points out that many techniques are currently available for reducing impurities. Some of these are largely extensions of those commonly used to separate aluminium from raw ore, while others serve to separate different materials in the recycling stream. However, these systems are not easy to deploy as retrofits to existing plants and so it would be more cost-effective to include them when new plants are being built – even if they are not needed immediately, the study recommends.

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