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.

Read more: Nissan joins UN-backed ‘Race to Zero’ campaign, aiming for 100% EVs by… ‘the early 2030s’

Photo: Nissan

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About the Author

Michelle Lewis

Michelle Lewis is a writer and editor on Electrek and an editor on DroneDJ, 9to5Mac, and 9to5Google. She lives in White River Junction, Vermont. She has previously worked for Fast Company, the Guardian, News Deeply, Time, and others. Message Michelle on Twitter or at michelle@9to5mac.com. Check out her personal blog.