An ex-ante LCA study of rare earth extraction from NdFeB magnet scrap using molten salt electrolysis

Rita Schulze, Aida Abbasalizadeh, Winfried Bulach, Liselotte Schebek, Matthias Buchert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
27 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

A new recycling process for the extraction of rare earths from neodymium–iron–boron (NdFeB) magnet scrap is being developed, based on the direct extraction of rare earths from end-of-life magnet material in a molten fluoride electrolysis bath. Rare earths are required in their metallic form for the production of new NdFeB magnets, and the suggested process achieves this through a single step. The process is being developed on a laboratory scale and has been proven to work in principle. It is expected to be environmentally beneficial when compared to longer processing routes. Conducting life cycle assessment at R&D stage can provide valuable information to help steer process development into an environmentally favorable direction. We conducted a life cycle assessment study to provide a quantitative estimate of the impacts associated with the process being developed and to compare the prospective impacts against those of the current state-of-the-art technology. The comparison of this recycling route with primary production shows that the recycling process has the potential for much lower process-specific impacts when compared against the current rare earth primary production route. The study also highlights that perfluorocarbon emissions, which occur during primary rare earth production, warrant further investigation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)493-505
JournalJournal of Sustainable Metallurgy
Volume4
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Keywords

  • Ex-ante LCA
  • Molten fluorides
  • Molten salt electrolysis
  • Perfluorocarbon (PFC) emissions
  • Rare earths
  • Recycling

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