L. Fu, H. Karimi-Maleh

Recent advances in electrochemical recovery of rare earth elements from NdFeB magnets

J. Min. Metall. Sect. B-Metall., 60 (1) (2024) 1-14. DOI:10.2298/JMMB230823001F
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Available online 18 January 2024
(Received 23 August 2023; Accepted 25 December 2023)


Recent advances in electrochemical methods promise a more sustainable recycling of rare earth elements (REEs) from discarded NdFeB permanent magnets. The demand for NdFeB magnets for clean energy applications is rapidly increasing, motivating recycling efforts to diversify REE supply. The main electrochemical steps include the selective dissolution of REE-rich phases at the anode and the reduction of REE ions at the cathode. Pretreatment with demagnetization, mechanical size reduction, and leaching contributes to the release and concentration of REEs. Thermal demagnetization and mechanical crushing make the magnets brittle and improve the penetration of leaching agents. Acid leaching dissolves the REEs, but also dissolves the iron. To facilitate the extraction of REEs at high temperatures, molten salt electrolytes such as chlorides are used, while ionic liquids allow extraction under milder conditions, but with the caveat of possible decomposition during the process. Aqueous solutions have been most thoroughly investigated due to their versatility and affordability. Fluoride-based molten salt electrolytes effectively dissolve RREs and provide a stable environment for high-temperature electrodeposition, improving the efficiency and sustainability of rare earth element recovery. To isolate high-purity REE oxides and metals, additional processing is required using techniques such as solvent extraction, selective precipitation, and electroseparation. Key factors for optimal electrochemical recycling are maximizing selectivity for REEs, minimizing energy consumption and waste generation, and simplifying integration. Although technical challenges remain, recent advances show that electrochemical technologies can improve the sustainability of recycling critical REEs from permanent magnets.

Keywords: Rare earth elements (REEs); NdFeB magnets; Electrochemical recycling; Hydrometallurgy; Sustainability

Correspondence Address:
L. Fu,
College of Materials and Environmental Engineering, Hangzhou Dianzi University, Hangzhou, China;
email: fuli@hdu.edu.cn; lifu.ac@gmail.com



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