Recycling rare earths in an economically viable way

Recycling rare earths from smartphones or computers is a promising additional source of the scarce raw materials. However, the effort and cost of the reprocessing process are still too high. An innBW research project now aims to achieve economically viable recovery from magnetic scrap. The project will investigate the recovery of the magnetic materials neodymium and dys-prosium and the production of high-quality secondary raw materials, and develop an economic model of a collection and recycling system. The Baden-Württemberg Ministry of Finance and Economics is supporting the project with 940,000 euros as part of the "Technological Resource Protection" funding program. Economics and Finance Minister Dr. Nils Schmid handed over the funding notification at the Research Institute for Precious Metals and Metal Chemistry in Schwäbisch Gmünd on October 30.

High-tech metals from waste
Three innBW institutes are involved in the project, which will run until the end of 2017: the Research Institute for Precious Metals + Metal Chemistry (fem) from Schwäbisch Gmünd and the DITF Denkendorf with the Institute for Textile Chemistry and Chemical Fibers and the Center for Management Research. The economic and practical orientation is ensured by the participation of regional recycling companies.

As a high-tech location, Baden-Württemberg is urgently dependent on a secure, stable and affordable supply of raw materials. Experts therefore advise recycling in the case of rare earths: The substances are scarce and mostly found in only a few countries such as China or Congo. In addition, they are repeatedly artificially scarce, which drives up the price. Economical recycling of the sought-after metals could offer companies in the country a cost-effective and sustainable alternative - and it would be more environmentally friendly.

The research project is divided into three subprojects: The first will investigate material flows containing magnets from electronic scrap, among other things, and the process engineering options for separating the magnetic materials. The second subproject will enable the use of a new, highly selective solid-phase absorber for hydrometallurgical separation of the materials. The new separation technology promises cost savings in the production of marketable recycled products. In the third subproject, a sustainable establishment of a collection and recycling system including static and dynamic economic feasibility studies will be proposed.


German Institutes of Textile and Fiber Research Denkendorf

Prof. Dr. rer. nat. habil. Michael R. Buchmeiser
Körschtalstraße 26
73770 Denkendorf
Phone: +49 711 9340101


Research Institute

Prof. Dr. Holger Kaßner
Katharinenstr. 13–17
73525 Schwäbisch Gmünd
Phone: +49 7171 1006-0

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