New simpler recycling process extracts rare-earth magnets from discarded electronics
The CMI team’s method is much simpler. After retrieving hard disk drive magnets from their source, the researchers remove their protective coatings, crush them into powder, and spray them with a plasma torch to make a coating 0.5–1 mm thick. The end result is a magnet that is not as powerful as the original—but still useful for many applications, such as magnets for small electronics, according to the release. And the new process is simpler than other conventional methods of extracting rare earths from discarded electronics.
Hard disk drive magnets that were used in a process to create new alloys. Credit: Ames Laboratory
As technologies continues to advance and electronics continue to become increasingly more available and necessary, we need to start focusing on saving rare earth magnets. Old electronics are increasingly being thrown away, taking valuable rare earth magnets with them. Since theses are rare, eventually they will run out.
The goal with recycling rare earth magnets is to ultimately create new magnet alloys and lower the environmental impact rare earth magnets have in landfills. When a new magnet is created from a recycled product less energy is used and fewer pollutants are released.
At Okon Metals we have over 100 years of utility and energy-related scrap recycling experience. We are confident that we will surpass all your recycling expectations. Regardless of what you need recycled, rest assured Okon Metals will mange your recyclables in a process that is environmentally friendly, cost effective, and compliant with regulations.
Recycling should not just be an every once in a while thing, recycling should be a way of life. To protect the Earth we live on, we need to move towards more sustainable living. It is our mission to consistently deliver high prices, a clean and safe environment, as well as fast, friendly, and respectful service for all customers.
Contact us today at 508-688-2995 to discuss your recycling needs.
Magnets are a vital tool used in recycling. Recycling consists of separating different types of metals and alloys, based on the elements each is made from. Many metals contain iron, and a magnet sticks to these types. Other metals do not contain iron, and therefore a magnet will not stick to them. Using a magnet determines if metals contain iron or not, and this plays an important role in recycling.
Ferrous metals are any metals that contain iron. This includes tin, steel, iron, cast iron and plate and structural steel. A magnet is used to detect if a metal contains steel. If it does, the magnet sticks to the metal. The value of steel, or iron, products is significantly less than that of nonferrous materials.
Recycling centers or scrap yards often use a crane with a huge magnet. The crane operator moves scrap metals into piles using this magnet. Any ferrous material, or material containing iron, is picked up by the magnet and placed in a specified location. Any material that is not picked up by the crane’s magnet gets sorted by the type of metal it is.
The recovery of metals from flows of waste or raw material is becoming increasingly important because raw materials are becoming rarer and the costs of waste disposal continue to rise.
Governments are seeking to reduce the environmental burden. Currently, this is by promoting and subsidizing recycling initiatives.
As a result, there has been an increased market demand for the recycling of metals. The magnet specialists, Goudsmit Magnetics, has developed various separators that can pick out pieces of metal from the waste These are often very valuable metals, which often makes the payback period very short.
In addition to this, the waste products can be made reusable for new applications. Examples of these include Green Deals, Urban Mining, E-Waste recycling and the EU Waste Directive (Directive 2008/98/EC).
Goudsmit’s recycling magnets separate ferromagnetic parts such as iron, steel and weakly magnetic metals such as machined stainless steel as well as non-ferromagnetic parts, such as aluminum, copper, zinc, gold, silver, and magnesium. There are numerous applications for magnetic separators. These include separation and recovery of ferrous and non-ferrous metals as well as the elimination of impurities from product flows.
Recycling is not an easy thing to do, and its difficulties increase with
scale. For large communities and cities, industrial scale recycling
operations are required. This further requires the adoption of
industrial methods utilizing specialized machinery that can extract
specific materials from the wastestream with sufficient capacity to
manage incoming waste loads. Technically, the process of recycling MSW
presents a series of challenges and problems.
But now, there is a simpler process to recycle rare earths from discarded electronics. Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Critical Materials Institute (CMI) recently devised a new method to extract rare-earth magnets from discarded hard disk drives—and turn them into new magnets for other uses. According to Ames Laboratory scientist Ryan Ott, who is on the research team at CMI, hard disk drives are the most common source of scrap magnet material.
“There are a lot of ways to go about getting the rare-earth elements out of e-waste, and some of them are very effective,” he explains in an Ames Laboratory news release, “but some create unwanted byproducts and the recovered elements still need to be incorporated into a new application.”
Currently, rare earths can be extracted from their original electronic sources, but some, such as magnets, cannot be reused in the same way. One common method for recycling rare earths is acid dissolution to recover the materials as oxides, Ott writes in an email. That process, he explains, can generate acid as a waste product.