Rare earth magnets from old computers to find use in electric Bentleys
Rare earth magnets form an important part of many of today's electronic devices, ranging from wind turbine generators to MRI scanners. Despite their prevalence, only a tiny fraction of these magnets are recycled once they reach the end of their lives, but a new project involving Bentley Motors is intended to steer this trend back in the right direction, by repurposing them for use in luxury vehicles.
The new UK-funded venture goes by the name of the RaRE (Rare-earth Recycling for E-machines) and involves a number of industry partners in addition to Bentley, with a technology patented by researchers at the University of Birmingham and now licensed to spin-off company HyProMag serving as the bedrock. This is called Hydrogen Processing of Magnet Scrap (HPMS), and involves breaking down rare earth metals in discarded electronic devices as a way of separating them from the other bits and pieces.
As part of a new three-year agreement, the researchers will now adapt this technology to recycle rare earth magnets from old computer hard drives, which will be used in ancillary motors for Bentley's electric and hybrid vehicles. The luxury automaker has taken tentative steps toward electrification in recent years, introducing a Bentayga Hybrid in 2018 following a string of electric sports car concepts.
A key focus of the project will be coming up with a way of scaling up this HPMS recycling process to produce more substantial amounts of neodymium magnets (NdFeB), the most common form of rare earth metal.
“RaRE is an exciting project and a fantastic opportunity,' says Nick Mann, Operations General Manager at HyProMag. "HyProMag’s recycling technologies allow us to produce NdFeB magnets with a much lower embedded carbon cost than using virgin supply and with independence from Chinese supply and we are working closely with our major shareholder Mkango Resources to further grow the business."
Source: University of Birmingham