Electric motors

Hydrogen de-bonding

Researchers find a way to recycle rare earths from magnets




May 13th 2021 | words 438

 

 

 

 

THE MOTORS driving todays electric cars use powerful magnets made from rare-earth metals. Not all rare earths are actually that rare. Neodymium, for instance, is about as abundant as tin. But good, workable deposits are scarce, and many are in China, which has, in the past, imposed export quotas. This, combined with an absence of substitutes, make rare earths pricey enough to constitute more than half of such a motors cost. Yet virtually none is recycleda deficiency that extends also to the motors in computer hard drives, cordless tools and domestic appliances, and to the generators (essentially, electric motors in reverse) in wind turbines.

 

The problem, says Allan Walton, who leads the Magnetic Materials Group at the University of Birmingham, in Britain, is that the process of shredding and separating usually applied to electronic waste makes the recovery of rare earths hard. Rare-earth magnets are brittle, and break into particles which oxidise readily in air. The result is a residue which is of little, if any, commercial value.

 

shred

shred red /
 verb
(-dd-) [VN]
 to cut or tear sth into small pieces
:
 Serve the fish on a bed of shredded lettuce.
  ,,
 He was accused of shredding documents relating to the case (= putting them in a shredder ).
   

brittle

brittle britl /
 adj.
1. hard but easily broken
:
 brittle bones / nails
  /
2. a brittle mood or state of mind is six that appears to be happy or strong but is actually nervous and easily damaged
:
 a brittle temperament
  
3. (of a sound ) hard and sharp in an unpleasant way
:
 a brittle laugh
  
 brittleness noun [U] 


oxidize

oxidize (BrE also -ise) / ksidaiz; NAmE k- /
 verb [VN , V]
 (chemistry ) to remove one or more electrons from a substance, or to combine or to make sth combine with oxygen , especially when this causes metal to become covered with rust
()()
 oxidation ksidein; NAmE k- / noun [U]
-- compare reduce (4), reduction (4) 



Dr Walton and his colleagues hope to change this, using a process developed by Rex Harris, now an emeritus professor at Birmingham, to recycle neodymium, the rare earth most widely employed in electric motors. In Dr Harriss process, components containing neodymium-based magnets destined for recycling are tipped into a vessel that is then pumped full of hydrogen. A reaction between the hydrogen and the neodymium causes the material of the magnets to expand until it shatters. The result is a demagnetised powder. Once the vessels contents have been tumbled and sieved, and the hydrogen removed, the extracted powder is of a quality good enough for it to be processed straight back into magnets.

 

emeritus

emeritus imerits /
 adj.
(often Emeritus)
used with a title to show that a person, usually a university teacher, keeps the title as an honour, although he or she has stopped working
(),:
 the Emeritus Professor of Biology
   



To recycle neodymium in this way, Dr Walton and his team have set up a firm called Hypromag. They say the resulting magnets need 88% less energy to make than equivalents produced from scratch. To help commercialise the process, Hypromag has teamed up with Bentley, a British subsidiary of Volkswagen well known for its luxury cars, which is now developing a range of electric models. Even petrol-driven Bentleys, however, contain lots of electric motors. Some operate features found routinely in other vehiclespower steering, self-winding windows and the multiple loudspeakers in the audio system. Less common in other marques are the motors that pamper the occupants by massaging their backs through the seat covers. All of these, though, will eventually be grist to Dr Waltons mill.


marque

marque mk; NAmE mrk /
 noun
(formal)a well-known make of a product, especially a car, that is expensive and fashionable
():
 the Porsche marque
   





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Economist | Electric motors

Electric motors

Hydrogen de-bonding

Researchers find a way to recycle rare earths from magnets




May 13th 2021 | words 438

 

 

 

 

THE MOTORS driving todays electric cars use powerful magnets made from rare-earth metals. Not all rare earths are actually that rare. Neodymium, for instance, is about as abundant as tin. But good, workable deposits are scarce, and many are in China, which has, in the past, imposed export quotas. This, combined with an absence of substitutes, make rare earths pricey enough to constitute more than half of such a motors cost. Yet virtually none is recycleda deficiency that extends also to the motors in computer hard drives, cordless tools and domestic appliances, and to the generators (essentially, electric motors in reverse) in wind turbines.

 

The problem, says Allan Walton, who leads the Magnetic Materials Group at the University of Birmingham, in Britain, is that the process of shredding and separating usually applied to electronic waste makes the recovery of rare earths hard. Rare-earth magnets are brittle, and break into particles which oxidise readily in air. The result is a residue which is of little, if any, commercial value.

 

shred

shred red /
 verb
(-dd-) [VN]
 to cut or tear sth into small pieces
:
 Serve the fish on a bed of shredded lettuce.
  ,,
 He was accused of shredding documents relating to the case (= putting them in a shredder ).
   

brittle

brittle britl /
 adj.
1. hard but easily broken
:
 brittle bones / nails
  /
2. a brittle mood or state of mind is six that appears to be happy or strong but is actually nervous and easily damaged
:
 a brittle temperament
  
3. (of a sound ) hard and sharp in an unpleasant way
:
 a brittle laugh
  
 brittleness noun [U] 


oxidize

oxidize (BrE also -ise) / ksidaiz; NAmE k- /
 verb [VN , V]
 (chemistry ) to remove one or more electrons from a substance, or to combine or to make sth combine with oxygen , especially when this causes metal to become covered with rust
()()
 oxidation ksidein; NAmE k- / noun [U]
-- compare reduce (4), reduction (4) 



Dr Walton and his colleagues hope to change this, using a process developed by Rex Harris, now an emeritus professor at Birmingham, to recycle neodymium, the rare earth most widely employed in electric motors. In Dr Harriss process, components containing neodymium-based magnets destined for recycling are tipped into a vessel that is then pumped full of hydrogen. A reaction between the hydrogen and the neodymium causes the material of the magnets to expand until it shatters. The result is a demagnetised powder. Once the vessels contents have been tumbled and sieved, and the hydrogen removed, the extracted powder is of a quality good enough for it to be processed straight back into magnets.

 

emeritus

emeritus imerits /
 adj.
(often Emeritus)
used with a title to show that a person, usually a university teacher, keeps the title as an honour, although he or she has stopped working
(),:
 the Emeritus Professor of Biology
   



To recycle neodymium in this way, Dr Walton and his team have set up a firm called Hypromag. They say the resulting magnets need 88% less energy to make than equivalents produced from scratch. To help commercialise the process, Hypromag has teamed up with Bentley, a British subsidiary of Volkswagen well known for its luxury cars, which is now developing a range of electric models. Even petrol-driven Bentleys, however, contain lots of electric motors. Some operate features found routinely in other vehiclespower steering, self-winding windows and the multiple loudspeakers in the audio system. Less common in other marques are the motors that pamper the occupants by massaging their backs through the seat covers. All of these, though, will eventually be grist to Dr Waltons mill.


marque

marque mk; NAmE mrk /
 noun
(formal)a well-known make of a product, especially a car, that is expensive and fashionable
():
 the Porsche marque
   





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