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A scanned and analysed hard disk drive picked up by a robot arm
Photo: Paco Ortiz, Inserma Anoia

SUSMAGPRO

Permanent magnets based on Rare Earth Elements are essential components of many high-tech products of great importance for the green energy transition. The EU H2020 SUSMAGPRO project will provide an infrastructure for magnet recycling that will be ready to supply a significant amount of recycled NdFeB magnet material to European magnet producers.

System for automated harvesting of NdFeB magnet from hard disk drives is built in a container for portability
Photo: Paco Ortiz, Inserma Anoia
System for automated harvesting of NdFeB magnet from hard disk drives is built in a container for portability

Background

Rare Earth Elements (REE) are listed by EU as Critical Raw Materials (CRM) due to the elements high importance for the green energy transition, combined with a high supply risk. Permanent magnets based on REE are essential components of many high-tech products such as electric cars, water pump motors, loudspeakers, and wind turbines.

Despite their name, REE are not rare to find in nature, however, they are difficult to extract and mining causes significant environmental damage. Currently, only a fraction of EU demand is also met by EU production, while China is the main producer and exporter worldwide. In addition to mining, further steps of the production process are carried out there, including oxidation and refinement. Given these circumstances, it is questionable if the current REE supply chain can be considered crisis-proof and sustainable.

Project goals

The EU project SUSMAGPRO makes an important contribution to securing a sustainable supply of raw materials for the production of Rare Earth NdFeB magnets by developing a recycling supply chain and demonstrating the effective reuse of recycled materials within several industries. Within the project, a consortium of 18 European partners from academia and industry, coordinated by Pforzheim University, is working on developing a recycling supply chain for Rare Earth magnets.

The project will considerably scale up the volumes of recovered Neodymium (Nd) from NdFeB magnets. A bottleneck in the recycling flow is to get access to enough material. The Rare Earth containing magnets are dispersed in a large mix of different waste materials. Magnet localization and extraction must be done in an efficient way to keep the cost of the recycled material below or at least not significantly higher than the cost of virgin material.

PCB with a double AMR/Hall magnetic sensor array for scanning of waste objects
Photo: Fredrik Ahrentorp, RISE
PCB with a double AMR/Hall magnetic sensor array for scanning of waste objects

RISE role

RISE role in the project is to develop and build efficient sensor systems to identify, localize and concentrate Rare Earth NdFeB magnets from waste material. The RISE team has many years of experience in sensor principles, using hardware and software design to build complete measurement systems and to use data analysis to combine information from multiple sources. 

To detect and identify magnetic material entailing rare earths in different applications, such as computer hard disk drives, electric motors and loudspeakers, RISE are developing a range of sensor systems and a magnetic scanner. The scanner will be integrated it into an automated separation system including further steps such as a robotic sorting and cutting line. The system will be scaled into a fully equipped pilot sorting line for processing hard disk drives to be hosted at Stena Recycling's plant in Sweden. The system will be built into a container, making it easy to transport to further premises dealing with electrical and electronic waste.

Supports the UN sustainability goals

7. Affordable and clean energy
8. Decent work and economic growth
9. Industry, innovation and infrastructure
12. Responsible consumption and production
14. Life below water
15. Life on land
Jakob Blomgren

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Jakob Blomgren

Senior Scientist

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