The British research project RaRE has set itself the goal of setting up a continuous supply chain to integrate recycled rare earth magnets into electric vehicles. Bentley is one of the companies involved in the project, which is led by HyProMag, a spin-off from the University of Birmingham.
RaRE stands for Rare-Earth Recycling for E-Machines and is based on a patented process developed at the University of Birmingham for the extraction and demagnetisation of certain alloy powders – especially neodymium-iron-boron (NdFeB). These alloy powders can be extracted from scrap and old equipment. The project now wants to go one step further and for the first time, use the recovered materials to develop new rare earth magnets for electric vehicles.
To this end, five British players are pooling their know-how. In addition to HyProMag and Bentley, the project partners include the automotive specialist Unipart Powertrain Applications, the electronic scrap company Intelligent Lifestyle Solutions and the engine developer Advanced Electric Machines Research. The recycled rare earth magnets are to be installed in auxiliary electric motors developed by Advanced Electric Machines Research according to Bentley’s ideas. Unipart’s task is to design an assembly line for the recycled materials to produce up to 100,000 motor units annually.
A patented process called HPMS (Hydrogen Processing of Magnet Scrap) will be used for extracting and demagnetising neodymium iron boron alloy powders from magnets embedded in scrap and redundant equipment. HyProMag aims to scale up the HPMS process and re-process the product back into new magnetic materials at pilot scale. The pilot should demonstrate the quality of material produced in terms of its magnetic behaviour, mechanical performance and corrosion resistance.
The initiators believe that the recycling of rare earth magnets will play a key role in developing robust supply chains. This field is still mostly untapped. “NdFeB magnets are essential for many future technologies,” emphasises Nick Mann, plant manager at HyProMag.
The British government provides 1.9 million pounds of funding for the project. The project partners are contributing another £700,000.