Birmingham University scientists have teamed up with Bentley’s engineers to deliver a continuous and sustainable supply of rare earth magnets for the luxury carmaker’s EVs and hybrids.
The three-year collaborative project – RaRE (Rare-earth Recycling for E-machines) – also includes Birmingham University’s HyProMag, Conventry’s Unipart Powertrain Applications, Tyne and Wear’s Advanced Electric Machines Research, and Cardiff’s Intelligent Lifecycle Solutions.
All six partners are working on establishing the first end-to-end supply chain of recycled rare earth magnets in the UK.
Found in almost every appliance that uses electricity to generate motion, rare earth magnets are in huge demand – yet just 1% of these magnets are recycled.
Hoping to change this, the RaRE project is making use of an innovative technology developed by professor Allan Walton and professor emeritus Rex Harris of the University’s Magnetic Materials Group.
The technology in question – Hydrogen Processing of Magnet Scrap (HPMS) – extracts rare earth metals from waste electronics by breaking them into a powder that is easily separated from remaining components.
The project’s coordinators are also working on developing a process to recycle magnets extracted from computer hard drives to make rare earth magnets for use in bespoke ancillary motors.
Intelligent Lifecycle Solutions will pre-process computer hard disk drives to remove the rare earth magnet containing components from the waste.
This will later be shipped to HyProMag for recycling the rare earth magnets.
Birmingham University will also provide cast alloys, which HyProMag will blend with secondary materials in order to produce the ‘sintered’ magnets, which are formed by press molding the metal powders.
Unipart will lead the development of manufacturing scale up routes to ensure facilities and processes defined are suitable for volume automotive manufacture.
Advanced Electric Machines’ contribution to the project lies in it designing and developing the said motors.
Image and content: University of Birmingham