End-of-life automotive speakers to provide source of rare earths

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Mkango Resources, a specialist in rare earth material extraction, has announced that HyProMag and partners European Metal Recycling (EMR) and the University of Birmingham have been awarded a grant from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, delivered by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), for a new project entitled Rare-Earth Extraction from Audio Products (REAP).

REAP will investigate ways of recycling rare earth magnets from speakers used in automotive and consumer electronics applications, which account for approximately 20% of the current market for rare earth magnets.

Nick Mann, operations general manager of HyProMag, said, “With demand for rare earth magnets accelerating, it is imperative that we find viable economic solutions to reclaim end-of-life magnets that are currently lost. Current estimates suggest that the recycling rate of rare earth magnets from end-of-life products stands at below 5%. The REAP project is focused on one of the biggest potential sources of those magnets, namely loudspeakers. Innovative processes developed to overcome the challenges around extracting magnets from assemblies are integral to the REAP project, and we are very pleased to be working with EMR and the University of Birmingham to further optimize these processes for audio products.”

Mkango notes that fundamental to the REAP project is a patented process for extracting and demagnetizing neodymium iron boron (NdFeB) alloy powders from magnets embedded in scrap and redundant equipment. The process, called HPMS (Hydrogen Processing of Magnet Scrap), was originally developed within the Magnetic Materials Group at the University of Birmingham and subsequently licensed to HyProMag.

EMR will pre-process automotive loudspeaker scrap to provide a feed of scrap components containing NdFeB magnets to HyProMag. HyProMag will then use the HPMS process in conjunction with the University of Birmingham to extract the magnets as a demagnetized alloy powder, which can be used in the remanufacture of magnets.

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Lawrence has been covering engineering subjects – with a focus on motorsport technology – since 2007 and has edited and contributed to a variety of international titles. Currently, he is responsible for content across UKI Media & Events' portfolio of websites while also writing for the company's print titles.

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