The Magnetic Materials Group (MMG) at the University of Birmingham is the only UK research group focussed on processing and recycling of permanent rare earth magnetic materials.
The MMG is internationally-recognised for its work on hydrogen processing of rare earth alloys and magnets which are used worldwide in the production and recycling of Neodymium-Iron-Boron (NdFeB) magnets. The group has been in existence for over 45 years under the leadership of Professor Rex Harris, Dr Andy Williams and now Professor Allan Walton.
Rare Earth Magnets
Rare earth magnets play a fundamental role in energy generation and utilisation, which is becoming increasingly important as we move towards an electricity based society. They play a vital role in the aerospace, robotics, electronic, wind turbine, medical, military and automotive industries. There are hundreds of magnets required in electric and hybrid cars within key applications such as drive motors, fans, generators, power steering, pumps, seat motors and loudspeakers.
The MMG has been at the forefront of alloy development and processing of magnetic materials for many years, working on ferrite, samarium cobalt and neodymium iron boron magnets in all their forms. More recently, the group has focussed on addressing the supply constraints for rare earth materials, which are top of the EU list in terms of criticality. The MMG have developed a full recycling process for NdFeB magnets from electrical waste to reprocessed magnet, new processing techniques for rare earth magnets to minimise machining losses and we have been part of several projects with a focus on using the rare earths more efficiently or on substitution.
Members of the MMG have played a crucial role in shaping the policy decisions around rare earth materials in the EU and UK. For example Professor Walton chaired the recycling working group on the EU ERECON project (European Rare Earth Competency Network) which involved over 120 industrial and academic partners and had the aim of strengthening the rare earth supply chain in Europe. He is also the principal investigator on the EPSRC Critical Elements and Materials Network.
Going forward, the MMG are investing in the Tyseley Energy Park, an Energy Innovation Zone with access to clean energy, hydrogen and ample space for scrap segregation. The group are scaling their recycling processes at this site as part of the EU SUSMAGPRO project.
On this MMG web site, you will find information about: