New hub starts commercial production of recycled rare earths in the UK

Nickel-plated neodymium magnet cubes. (Reference image from Wikimedia Commons.)

A rare earths hub set up by the University of Birmingham, HyProMag Ltd and Mkango at Tyseley, in central England, has started the production of recycled rare earths for the magnets that are used in electric vehicles, wind turbines and other clean technology industries.

The initiative is re-introducing commercial sintered magnet manufacturing back into the UK for the first time in over 20 years.

In a press release, the partners explained that the Tyseley Energy Park is employing a mechanism dubbed Hydrogen Processing of Magnet Scrap (HPMS), which is a short-loop recycling method delivering materials that need only a few process steps to produce recycled ‘sintered’ rare earth permanent magnets that are made to recognized industrial grades.    

HPMS is a new recycling technology that preserves the quality of the original magnets for reprocessing. Delivering an 88% energy saving and 98% human toxicity saving when compared to primary production, it is considered a cleaner and more energy efficient process than the traditional dismantling, thermal demagnetization and cleaning processes and lends itself to automated and efficient processing.   

The Tyseley scale-up is underpinned by a successful pilot at the University of Birmingham. Since its commissioning in 2022, the pilot has produced over 3,000 finished NdFeB magnets for project partners and potential customers, which are now being tested in a wide range of applications in the automotive, aerospace and electronics sectors. Magnets have been produced in different grades from a variety of different scrap sources. 

At present, this is the only local source of recycled rare earth permanent magnets in the UK.

The first production runs from the Tyseley site will provide further customer and project partner samples. Commercial production is targeted for 2024, with initial throughput targets of 20 tonnes per year of rare earth magnets and alloys, scaling up to a minimum of 100 tpa in subsequent months.

In the statement, HyProMag noted that it has received significant interest for recycled magnets from potential customers and for recycling solutions from original equipment manufacturers and automotive and recycling companies with larger scale-up scenarios capable of producing up to 1,000 tpa currently being evaluated.

“This is a major milestone for the company, HyProMag and for the UK, creating a strong platform to advance to commercial production and for the scale-up and roll-out of HPMS technology into Germany, the United States and other jurisdictions,” Will Dawes, Mkango’s CEO, said. “HyProMag’s recycling technology has major competitive advantages versus other recycling technologies and is a key enabler for the cost-effective and energy-efficient separation and recycling of rare earth magnets, avoiding the need for dismantling, and enabling the production of magnets with a significantly reduced carbon footprint.”

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