Selection of smartphones
Rare earth magnets play a key role in electronic devices, including mobile phones.

Researchers from the Birmingham Energy Institute (BEI) are supporting a new grant-funded project to recycle rare earth magnets from electronic waste, electric motors, and wind turbines for the UK supply chain.

Rare earth magnets play a key role in clean energy technologies, and they are also a key component in electronic devices including mobile phones, hard disk drives and loudspeakers. The UK has no domestic source of primary rare earths. The development of domestic sources of recycled rare earths presents an opportunity for the UK to fast-track the development of sustainable and competitive rare earth magnet production.

Secure Critical Rare Earth Magnets for UK (SCREAM) is a £3.4m UK Research and Innovation funded project that will establish a recycled source of rare earth magnets in the UK to provide greater security of supply to UK industry, whilst aiming to achieve a 10% reduction in cost and a significant reduction in environmental impact.

SCREAM will recover NdFeB magnets from end of life automotive, robotic, separator and loudspeaker scrap streams using various techniques, including an automated sorting line and the Hydrogen Processing of Magnet Scrap (HPMS) process.

Researchers from the Birmingham Energy Institute will work with partners to develop a new semi continuous version of the HPMS process, building on the process originally developed and patented by the University of Birmingham’s Magnetic Materials Group. 

The extracted rare earth metals will be processed directly from the alloys into sintered magnets on a newly installed production line at the Tyseley Energy Park in Birmingham

Partners of the SCREAM project include the University of Birmingham, HyProMag, Bowers & Wilkins, European Metal Recycling, GKN Automotive, Jaguar Land Rover and Mkango Rare Earths UK Ltd.

Nick Mann, Operations General Manager of HyProMag stated:“As HyProMag moves forward in the manufacturing of recycled magnets, the ability to demonstrate our products in a range of applications with different demands is crucial. 

“We are delighted to be working with such a talented consortium, to deliver premium products engineered to the highest standards and in doing so forge future relationships. This project will push our magnet making to new levels and prove our ability to offer an alternative to current supply routes.”

Gordon Day, Managing Director, GKN Automotive Innovation Centre, said: “This leading research project which brings together key industry leaders across multiple sectors is vital to ensuring a secure and sustainable supply chain for next-generation electric powertrains. Rare earth magnets are a key component of electric motors and developing a robust solution for recovering and reusing them will help us reduce our environmental impact in the future.”