Rare earth elements recycling has been proposed to alleviate supply risks and market volatility. In this context, the potential of a new recycling pathway, namely plasma mass separation, is uncovered through the example of nedodymium - iron - boron magnets recycling. Plasma mass separation is shown to address some of the shortcomings of existing rare earth elements recycling pathways, in particular detrimental environmental effects. A simplified mass separation model suggests that plasma separation performances could compare favourably with existing recycling options. In addition, simple energetic considerations of plasma processing suggest that the cost of these techniques may not be prohibitive, particularly considering that energy costs from solar may become significantly cheaper. Further investigation and experimental demonstration of plasma separation techniques should permit asserting the potential of these techniques against other recycling techniques currently under development.
Journal of Cleaner Production – Elsevier
Published: May 1, 2018
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