EIT Manufacturing: supporting recycling of rare earth magnets for a sustainable future

The demand for rare earth magnets is increasing, with an annual consumption exceeding 150,000 tonnes mainly for electric motors, machine tools, robotics, loudspeakers, water pumps, and ICT.

 Europe is a major player in these sectors but relies on imports of 98% of Neodymium (NdFeB) magnets primarily from China, the only country that today has a presence in all the steps of the process. Rare earth magnets are powering our machines and therefore, playing a vital role in the advancement of technology.

Presently, Europe lacks a commercial infrastructure for the recycling of NdFeB magnets which is where the EIT Manufacturing Innovation project CHEAPREMAG comes into play. The mission of this project is to contribute towards the development of an entire value chain within Europe based on the recycling of magnets at the end of their useful life (EoL).

The heart of the CHEAPREMAG initiative lies in its innovative way of recycling EoL sintered NdFeB. After the collection, analysis, and classification of the scrap, it is converted into recycled NdFeB powder by gas atomization. Post‐atomization heat treatments are applied to produce an isotropic spherical powder. The recycled powder is mixed with organic binders and shaped by compression or injection molding into bonded isotropic NdFeB magnets.

The magnets produced were successfully demonstrated in a pump, substituting a high-grade anisotropic strontium ferrite. The adoption of recycled magnets currently requires the use of an increased amount of magnetic material so there is some increase in size of the magnets. Areas of future development include size reduction and production of anisotropic magnets. These developments will enable the direct substitution of NdFeB bonded magnets, bridging the gap between innovation and sustainability.

CHEAPREMAG was funded by EIT Manufacturing and coordinated by CEIT Technology Centre with project partners Fraunhofer IFAMMondragon Unibertsitatea, Copreci, and Magneti Ljubljana.

EIT Manufacturing was established in 2019 with a vision that global manufacturing will continue to be led by Europe. As Europe’s largest manufacturing innovation network, EIT Manufacturing connects more than 85+ members from industry, academia and research, alongside a growing network of key actors from around Europe into an innovation ecosystem.

Read more about EIT Manufacturing: www.eitmanufacturing.eu

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