Rare earth recycling company HyProMag, scrap metal firm European Metal Recycling (EMR) and the University of Birmingham will partner on the 'Rare-Earth Extraction from Audio Products' (REAP) project.
REAP will investigate ways of recycling rare earth magnets from speakers used in automotive and consumer electronics, according to a statement from Malawi-focused rare earth producer Mkango Resources, which holds a 25% equity interest in HyProMag.
"Current estimates suggest that the recycling rate of rare earth magnets from end of life products stands at below 5%. The REAP project is focused on one of the biggest potential sources of those magnets, namely loudspeakers," said Nick Mann, operations general manager of HyProMag.
The project will use a patented process for extracting and demagnetising neodymium iron boron (NdFeB) alloy powders from magnets embedded in scrap and redundant equipment, named HPMS (Hydrogen Processing of Magnet Scrap).
HPMS was originally developed within the Magnetic Materials Group at the University of Birmingham and subsequently licenced to HyProMag.
EMR will pre-process automotive and flat screen TV loudspeaker scraps to provide a feed of scrap components containing NdFeB magnets to HyProMag. HyProMag will use the HPMS process in conjunction with the University of Birmingham to extract the magnets as a demagnetised alloy powder.
The total budget for REAP is £256,144, of which £174,744 will be funded by UK Research and Innovation through the Driving the Electric Revolution challenge, part of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, with the balance funded by project partners.
"Rare earth magnet recycling from end-of-life components represents a significant market opportunity and will become an increasingly important part of the rare earth supply chain in the UK, Europe and elsewhere," said William Dawes, chief executive of Mkango.
HyProMag plans to establish a recycling facility for NdFeB magnets at Tyseley in Birmingham to provide a sustainable solution for the supply of NdFeB magnets and alloy powders.
AIM-listed Mkango controls the current 25% HyProMag stake through a subsidary, and there is an option to increase the holding to 49%.