Recovery of rare earth elements from discarded electronic components

Sep 22, 2023

     Rare earth elements (REE) play a crucial role in the modern technological revolution involving communications, electric vehicles, renewable energy and impacting our daily lives. Although rare earths are not scarce from a geological perspective, they have gained global attention as a strategic resource due to the uneven distribution of rare earth sources and concerns about scarcity in the supply chain. Here is a brief introduction to the steps of recycling rare earth elements.


discarded electronic components


1. Disassembly and separation:

     First of all, the waste electronic components need to be disassembled and the parts containing rare earth elements need to be separated. This step involves physical processing of electronic devices, such as breaking, grinding, or heating, to separate out parts that contain rare earth elements, such as magnets, circuit boards, or impurities.


2. Chemical treatment:

     The separated parts containing rare earth elements are usually subjected to a series of chemical treatments such as dissolution, extraction, precipitation, etc., to separate the rare earth elements from other metals or impurities.


the steps of recycling rare earth elements


3. Refining and purification:

     Rare earth elements to get further purification, need to go through further processing and refining steps. It involves the use of chemical reactions, high-temperature treatment, or other techniques to remove residual impurities and obtain high purity rare earth elements.


4. Smelting and alloying:

     After the rare earth elements are purified, they can be smelted into metal form, or alloyed with other elements to prepare rare earth alloys with specific properties.


     Of the 17 rare earth elements, Nd is also recognized as one of the most critical because of its importance to clean energy production and the risks associated with its supply chain, so neodymium is an indispensable and expensive metallic element for our society, and the key issue is to secure its supply and make it sustainable. According to the Journal of Chemical Engineering, less than 1% of materials are currently recycled, and we are far from achieving sustainable use.

Various industrial and domestic waste materials

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