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US licensing of new rare earth recycling approach

United States – A new rare earth recycling technology developed by the US Department of Energy’s Critical Materials Institute (CMI) has been licensed to US Rare Earths, Inc. The membrane solvent extraction system is said to be the first commercially licensed technology developed through the CMI.

The innovative technology, invented by CMI partners Oak Ridge and Idaho National Laboratory, uses a combination of hollow fibre membranes, organic solvents and neutral extractants to ‘selectively recover’ up to 90% rare earths. Lab tests indicate a high success rate for recovering a ‘highly pure form’ of neodymium, dysprosium and praseodymium from scrap magnets.

CMI director Alex King credits close collaboration with industry as key to making technology transfer happen ‘well ahead of traditional time frames’. He adds: ‘Going from an idea to a licensed technology in just two years is exactly what CMI is intended to do, and we’ve proven we can do it.’

The recycling of critical materials from e-scrap was previously limited by processing technologies that are inefficient, costly and environmentally hazardous, notes Ramesh Bhave, who led the recycling R&D project. The team’s new and simplified process eliminates many of these barriers, he points out.

‘Our single-step process to recover rare earth elements from scrap magnets is more environmentally friendly and has the potential to be a more cost-effective approach compared to conventional routes such as precipitation,’ Bhave states.

The recycling of electronic waste will provide a ‘competitive source’ of neodymium, dysprosium and praseodymium for growing the clean tech sector – including electric vehicles, according to Kevin Cassidy, ceo of US Rare Earths, Inc.

Aircraft engines are one of many products made with the help of rare earths.


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