UK to get first recycling plant for rare earth magnets in EVs
Plans are taking shape for the UK’s first recycling plant for high-performance rare earth magnets, used in electric vehicles as well as other technologies.
UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) has awarded the University of Birmingham £4.3m to establish the plant, which will be located at Tyseley Energy Park (TEP), a local research and development facility dedicated to delivering clean energy innovation.
The project is part of a £28.5m investment from the UKRI to support the creation of a competitive electrification supply chain in the UK, and will enable the UK to develop a circular economy around high performance motors and magnets that would make a significant contribution to the UK’s net zero targets on carbon emissions.
The plant will be based on the patented HPMS process (Hydrogen Processing of Magnet Scrap), which uses hydrogen as a processing gas to separate magnets from waste products such as vehicle motors, audio product and hard disk drives. This will be turned into an alloy powder which can then be used as a basis to re-manufacture sintered rare earth magnets – which are used in motors for electric vehicles, as well as aerospace, renewable energy technologies and low-carbon technologies.
The HPMS process has been licensed by the University of Birmingham to HyProMag and is estimated to require less than 85% of the energy compared to the production of rare earth magnets from primary sources.
Professor Allan Walton, co-director of the Birmingham Centre for Strategic Elements and Critical Materials and the project lead, said: “This is a huge opportunity for the UK to become a world leader in high-performance magnet recycling. With the expansion of the electric vehicle market our reliance on these components is going to increase rapidly. Establishing an end-to-end supply chain will ensure we can not only properly exploit these new technologies, but it will also secure an indigenous supply of these materials whilst significantly reducing the environmental burden of production.”