Nissan and Waseda University in Tokyo have been working together since 2017, and today, they announced that they are starting the testing of a recycling process that recovers high-purity, rare-earth compounds from electric vehicle motor magnets.
First, they heat a used motor to 2,552F (1,400C) to melt it down. Then iron oxide is added to oxidize the rare-earth elements (REEs).
Next, a small amount of borate-based flux, which can dissolve rare-earth oxides and recover REEs efficiently, is added to the molten mixture.
The molten mixture then separates into two liquid layers. The molten oxide layer – called slag – that contains the REEs floats to the top, and the higher-density iron-carbon alloy layer sinks to the bottom. The REEs are then easily recovered from the slag. Have a look:
Nissan claims that it’s been able to recover 98% of a motor’s rare-earth elements using their new recycling process.
The automaker also says the method slashes the recovery process by around 50%, compared to the current method, because there is no need to demagnetize, remove, or take apart the magnets.
Nissan is aiming to launch its new recycling process by mid-decade.
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