Metalysis, a British firm, reports that it can produce rare earth metals using transformational metal production technology. The company successfully produced the rare earth metals neodymium and terbium metals from their respective oxides by solid-state electrolysis for the first time. The principle used is the same as in the production of aluminium.
Metalysis claims its process is more energy efficient and less expensive when compared with existing methods for rare earth production. This is because Metalysis produces the metals directly from oxides in a single step. Producing these metals at reduced cost and with a lower impact on the environment could widen access to these metals and the resulting magnets, the company noted.
The Metalysis process is also capable of making alloys in one step. It will now work on producing magnetic alloys in larger quantities, such as neodymium-iron-boron. Currently, these alloys are created by mixing all the individual elements together before melting them to yield ingots of the desired alloy, these then have to be processed further to produce powders. This involves numerous steps to obtain a homogeneous product, therefore by adopting the Metalysis process to manufacture the alloyed powder directly, the overall number of stages, and hence energy requirement, is significantly reduced.
“Using the Metalysis process to successfully create rare earth metals means we can replicate the success we have achieved in the development of a process for high value metals such as titanium and tantalum,” said Guppy Dhariwal, Metalysis CEO. “The Metalysis process will help develop the new sources of rare earths from countries outside of China by processing them using our new, environmentally benign, lower cost production process.”