Life cycle inventory of the production of rare earths and the subsequent production of NdFeB rare earth permanent magnets

Benjamin Sprecher, Yanping Xiao, Allan Walton, John Speight, Rex Harris, Rene Kleijn, Geert Visser, Gert Jan Kramer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

147 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Neodymium is one of the more critical rare earth elements with respect to current availability and is most often used in high performance magnets. In this paper, we compare the virgin production route of these magnets with two hypothetical recycling processes in terms of environmental impact the first recycling process looks at manual dismantling of computer hard disk drives (HDDs) combined with a novel hydrogen based recycling process the second process assumes HDDs are shredded. Our life cycle assessment is based both on up to date literature and on our own experimental data. Because the production process of neodymium oxide is generic to all rare earths, we also report the life cycle inventory data for the production of rare earth oxides separately. We conclude that recycling of neodymium, especially via manual dismantling, is preferable to primary production, with some environmental indicators showing an order of magnitude improvement the choice of recycling technology is also important with respect to resource recovery. While manual disassembly allows in principle for all magnetic material to be recovered, shredding leads to very low recovery rates (<10%).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3951-3958
Number of pages8
JournalEnvironmental Science & Technology
Volume48
Issue number7
Early online date12 Mar 2014
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Environmental Chemistry

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