Rare earth magnets are a critical component of modern energy technologies. These are found in almost every appliance that uses electricity to generate motion, and in the last three decades, their use has increased exponentially. Although they are increasingly important in the transition to a low carbon economy, only a tiny fraction of these magnets are recycled once they reach the end of their lives.
However, now a new project involving a number of industry partners in addition to Bentley plans to establish the first end-to-end supply chain of recycled rare earth magnets in the UK. The project, entitled RaRE (Rare-earth Recycling for E-machines), aims to deliver a sustainable source of rare earth magnets for electric and hybrid vehicles for one of the most sought-after luxury car brands in the world.
The RaRE program will build on an innovative technology called Hydrogen Processing of Magnet Scrap (HPMS), which is patented by researchers at the University of Birmingham and now licensed to spin-off company HyProMag. The technology extracts rare earth metals from waste electronics by breaking them into a powder that is easily separated from the remaining components.
As part of a new three-year agreement with Bentley, HyProMag will focus on developing a specific process to recycle magnets extracted from computer hard drives to make rare earth magnets for use in bespoke ancillary motors for Bentley’s electric and hybrid vehicles. The University will also provide cast alloys, which HyProMag will blend with secondary materials to produce the ‘sintered’ magnets formed by press molding the metal powders.
“RaRE is an exciting project and a fantastic opportunity,” said Nick Mann, Operations General Manager at HyProMag. “HyProMag’s recycling technologies allow us to produce NdFeB magnets with a much lower embedded carbon cost than using virgin supply and with independence from Chinese supply and we are working closely with our major shareholder Mkango Resources to further grow the business.“
This study will be conducted in parallel with Bentley’s OCTOPUS (Optimized Components, Test and simulatiOn, toolkits for Powertrains which integrate Ultra high-speed motor Solutions) research program, which aims to a technological breakthrough in electric drive systems for high-performance vehicles. The resulting electric drive system surpasses the latest performance of the permanent magnet motor while eliminating the need for rare earth magnets and copper covers, offering a package that is both more economical and recyclable at the end of its life cycle.