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Bentley seeking rare earth recycling solutions for its luxury cars

Bentley Motors is working together with the University of Birmingham on a three-year research project aiming to deliver a sustainable source of rare earth magnets for electric and hybrid vehicles.

The use of rare earths in modern-day electronics and vehicles has increased notably over the last three decades. And yet, still only 1% of rare earth magnets is recycled. The EUR 3 million Rare-earth Recycling for E-machines (RaRe) project hopes to change this.

The innovative venture is funded by Innovate UK and the Office for Low Emission Vehicles, and involves six R&D partners who will work together ‘to establish the first end-to-end supply chain of recycled rare earth magnets in the UK’.

RaRE will build on an cutting-edge technology developed by Professor Allan Walton and Professor Rex Harris of Birmingham University’s Magnetic Materials Group. Their approach is called Hydrogen Processing of Magnet Scrap (HPMS). It extracts rare earth metals from waste electronics by breaking them into a powder that is easily separated from remaining components.  

The technology was patented by University of Birmingham Enterprise, and subsequently licensed to HyProMag Ltd, the company that was set up by the Birmingham researchers.  HyProMag has since received substantial investment from Mkango Resources, which will be fully funding HyProMag’s contribution to RaRE.

Walton says the R&D project will develop a process to recycle magnets extracted from computer hard drives to make rare earth magnets for use in ‘bespoke’ ancillary motors. HyProMag has an important role to play in scaling up the patented recycling technique.

Additionally, the Birmingham University will provide cast alloys, which HyProMag will blend with secondary materials in order to produce the ‘sintered’ magnets, which are formed by press moulding the metal powder.

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