ORNL licenses rare earth magnet recycling process to Momentum Technologies

September 02, 2016

The Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Momentum Technologies have signed a non-exclusive licensing agreement for an ORNL process designed to recover rare earth magnets from used computer hard drives.

The patent-pending process developed as part of DOE's Critical Materials Institute is designed to economically recover large amounts of magnets made using neodymium--a rare earth element that is mined outside the United States. The permanent magnets are the most powerful on earth, and used in everything from computer hard drives and cell phones to clean energy technologies such as electric vehicles and wind turbines.

Currently, about 35 percent of used hard drives are shredded in the U.S. due to data security concerns. Recycling those drives could result in the recovery of about 1,000 metric tons of magnet material per year, said Timothy McIntyre, project lead and program manager in ORNL's Electrical and Electronics Systems Research Division.

ORNL's highly automated process for recovering magnets employs a unique system to sort and align hard drives on a conveyer for processing. The method uses a mapping station with barcode scanning and a coordinate measuring machine to populate a database of each make of hard drive so they may be positioned for correct robotic disassembly.

The process is designed to recover the magnets, their permalloy brackets, circuit boards, aluminum, and steel, while automatically destroying data storage media to ensure security.

The magnets may then be directly reused by hard drive manufacturers or in motor assemblies, used in other applications through resizing or reshaping, or processed back to rare earth metal. The recycling method can be adapted to target other consumer goods containing rare earth magnets, such as used electric motors, appliances, and heating and air conditioning systems.

Dallas-based Momentum Technologies is focused on extraction of rare earth elements and other materials from hard drives for recycling and direct reuse.

Momentum holds a separate license for ORNL's membrane extraction technology, which uses a combination of hollow fiber membranes, organic solvents and neutral extractants to selectively recover rare earth elements such as neodymium, dysprosium and praseodymium.

"Working collectively with the nation's brightest scientific minds we can now provide a solution to some of the most complex problems in the rare earth element supply chain," said Preston Bryant, Momentum's CEO. "Bringing together these CMI technologies allows us to create a sustainable business model, something that many rare earth companies struggle to achieve."

"Hard disk drives are the second-biggest use of neodymium magnets, and they are the most readily available source for recycling," said CMI Director Alex King. "This technology overcomes one of the biggest challenges to cost-effective recovery of magnets from them, and we are delighted to be working with Momentum Technologies to commercialize it."
-end-
ORNL is managed by UT-Battelle for DOE's Office of Science, the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States. DOE's Office of Science is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit http://science.energy.gov/.

About the Critical Materials Institute:



The Critical Materials Institute is a Department of Energy Innovation Hub led by the U.S. Department of Energy's Ames Laboratory and supported by DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy's Advanced Manufacturing Office. CMI seeks ways to eliminate and reduce reliance on rare earth metals and other materials critical to the success of clean energy technologies.

DOE/Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Related Recycling Articles from Brightsurf:

Paper recycling must be powered by renewables to save climate
The study, published in Nature Sustainability, found that greenhouse gas emissions would increase by 2050 if we recycled more paper, as current methods rely on fossil fuels and electricity from the grid.

Lighting the path to recycling carbon dioxide
Combining solar-harvesting materials with carbon-dioxide-consuming microbes could be an efficient way to generate clean fuels.

Plastics, waste and recycling: It's not just a packaging problem
Discussions of the growing plastic waste problem often focus on reducing the volume of single-use plastic packaging items such as bags, bottles, tubs and films.

NREL research points to strategies for recycling of solar panels
Researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have conducted the first global assessment into the most promising approaches to end-of-life management for solar photovoltaic (PV) modules.

Recycling plastics together, simple and fast
Scientists successfully blended different types of plastics to be recycled together, providing a solution to the environmental problem of plastic waste and adding economic value to plastic materials.

Chemical recycling makes useful product from waste bioplastic
A faster, more efficient way of recycling plant-based 'bioplastics' has been developed by a team of scientists at the universities of Birmingham and Bath.

New recycling method could make polyurethane sustainable
Polyurethanes (PUs) are used in many products, such as mattresses, insulation, footwear and construction materials.

Almond orchard recycling a climate-smart strategy
Recycling orchard trees onsite can sequester carbon, save water and increase crop yields, making it a climate-smart practice for California's irrigated almond orchards, finds a study from the University of California, Davis.

'Deceptively simple' process could boost plastics recycling
Plastics are a victim of their own success, so inexpensive, easy to use and versatile that the world is awash in plastic waste.

New membranes for cellular recycling
Cells produce the shell of the autophagosomes on the spot.

Read More: Recycling News and Recycling Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.