recycling innovation makes gadgets a little bit greener
This breakthrough may have a huge impact on the technology industry.
Magnets made of \"rare earth metal\" are almost an important part of every gadget from mobile phones to computer hard drives.
But most of the world\'s supplies of rare earth metals are in China.
Therefore, being able to recycle these materials will not only be more eco-friendly, but will also provide companies with a new source of basic materials beyond the control of the Chinese government.
The traditional recycling method is very destructive.
You take your gadget apart, then sift through the rest and look for what you want.
The problem with the rare earth magnet is that once you start crushing, the magnet will crush and stick to any piece of metal it can find.
The end result is that these small pieces of rare earth metals cannot be recovered from the chaos at all.
But Professor Rex Harris of the University of Birmingham has a clever solution.
A few years ago, he discovered that if you pass hydrogen through a rare earth magnet, the magnet expands and becomes a powder.
The powder produced is not magnetic at all.
It doesn\'t stick to anything.
For a long time, this is just an interesting fact about a set of interesting elements.
But as rare earths gradually become such an important part of modern life, it is clear that this interesting fact may be the secret of recycling rare earths.
Dr. Alan Walton and his team at the University of Birmingham have now successfully recycled rare earths, which the industry has begun to notice.
At this stage, researchers have been focusing on computer hard drives.
We have recycled about 100 million of aluminum each year, mainly to get the aluminum they contain.
Rare earth, because they insist on everything, it is impossible to recover.
But as part of this work, a robot has been created that can identify the corners of each hard drive, where 25g of rare earth magnets are buried, and then turn it off.
Then you put the corner in a big drum (
Actually came out of the washing machine! )
Pass them hydrogen.
Rare earth magnets become powder, because they are no longer magnetic when you roll the drum, so drop all the powder.
The final result can then be made into the first ever recycled rare earth magnet.
All of this has proven to be working on a commercial scale, so hopefully in the coming year or so the company will be interested in the technology and use it.
In addition to environmental protection and waste reduction, this also provides new sources of revenue for the company.
Another benefit, of course, is that it provides a useful source of rare earth metals from outside China.
In the past, it was said that rare earth was the oil of the 21 st century, and China had a huge dominant position in the rare earth industry.
This will provide another option.
Finally, like many of the studies I\'m talking about, it\'s a huge project involving many different scientists, companies and groups across Europe.