October 28, 2023

Room Temperature Electrorefining of Rare Earth Metals from End-of-use Nd-Fe-B Magnets


Recovering rare earth elements (REE) from used permanent magnets, which contains about 30 wt.% of rare earth elements, has been persistent technological challenge. Current recycling methods relies on pyrometallurgical or hydrometallurgical processes which are energy- and chemical- intensive and not economically and environmentally viable for rare earth containing magnets. Enabling efficient and simplistic recovery and refining of REEs contained in End-of-Use (EoU) products, such as Neodymium-Iron-Boron (Nd-Fe-B) based magnets will play an important and complementary role in the total supply of REEs in the future. We designed a new electrochemical method and demonstrated a room temperature one-pot process that concurrently separates and electroplates REE from commercial Nd-Fe-B magnets. By establishing selective oxidation and reductive potential as electrochemical control parameter along with electrochemically compatible non-aqueous electrolyte system, we demonstrated selective electroleaching of lanthanides (Nd and Preseodymium (Pr)) from anode and concurrent plating as alloy at Pt cathode. The morphological and chemical evolution of the Nd-Fe-B magnets during electroleaching reveals the electrochemical stimuli and rate of dissolution depends on microstructural complexities of the Nd-Fe-B magnet. The concomitant electroplating process leads to Nd-Pr based alloy which can be used as raw metallic alloy for manufacturing new permanent magnet and other devices. Our study demonstrates a scalable separation and refining methodology, based on widely available organic electrolyte system and without any consumptive chemical use, for selective lanthanide recovery from waste magnets.

Published: October 28, 2023


Lim H., C. Venkata Subban, D. Nguyen, T.S. Nasoetion, T. Liu, K. Han, and B. Modachur Sivakumar, et al. 2023. Room Temperature Electrorefining of Rare Earth Metals from End-of-use Nd-Fe-B Magnets Richland, WA: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.