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Conférences et séminaires » Séminaire présenté par Koen Binnemans, KU Leuven, Belgique

Séminaire présenté par Koen Binnemans, KU Leuven, Belgique

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Recycling of rare earths : challenges and opportunities

Par : Koen Binnemans, KU Leuven – University of Leuven, Belgium
Date : lundi 3 juin 2013 à 14h30
Lieu : IPHC, Amphithéâtre Grünewald, Bâtiment 25

Résumé :

The rare-earth elements (REE) are becoming more and more important, because of their essential role in permanent magnets, lamp phosphors, catalysts and rechargeable batteries. The increasing popularity of hybrid and electric cars, wind turbines and compact fluorescent lamps is causing an unprecedented increase in the demand and price of REE. In its landmark report Critical Raw Materials for the European Union (2010), the European Commission considers the REE as the most critical elements, with the highest supply risk. With China presently producing more than 90% of the global production of the REE, Europe is heavily dependent on China, even though it possesses less than 40% of the proven reserves. China is not only mining REE, but is also specialised in the extraction of REE from ores, in the separation of concentrates of REE in the individual elements, and in the production of REE permanent magnets and lamp phosphors from purified REE. Because of large domestic demands, China tightened its REE export quota from 50.145 tonnes in 2009 to only 31.130 tonnes in 2012. This causes serious problems for consumers of REEs outside China, and also for the development of a more sustainable, low-carbon economy. Mining companies are now actively seeking for new exploitable rare earths deposits and old mines are reopened. For instance, the Mountain Pass Mine in California has restarted production in 2012. Recycling of REE from pre-consumer scrap and (often complex, multi-material) End-of-Life products (“urban mining”) can also secure part of REE supply. However, as recently pointed out in the influential UNEP report Recycling Rates of Metals (2011), less than 1% of the REE are currently being recycled, mainly due to inefficient collection, technological problems and (until now) lack of incentives. A drastic improvement in End-of-Life recycling rates for REE in Europe is, therefore, an absolute necessity, in line with the goals of the EU’s Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe (2011). This can only be realised by developing new efficient recycling routes. This talk will give an overview of the problems and possible solutions associated with the recycling of the rare earths three main applications of REE : permanent magnets, metal hydride batteries and lamp phosphors [1]. Special emphasis will be paid to the development of sustainable closed materials loops for the rare earths [2]. It will also be stated that REE recycling is not only of importance for securing the REE supply, but that is also offers a partial solution for the so-called “balance problem”. Finally, recent research at KU Leuven on the use of ionic liquid technology for the recovery of rare earths from permanent magnets will be highlighted.

Personne à contacter : Isabelle BILLARD


[1K. Binnemans, P.T. Jones, B. Blanpain, T. Van Gerven, Y.X. Yang, A. Walton, M. Buchert, Journal of Cleaner Production 2013, in press.

[2P.T. Jones, T. Van Gerven, K. Van Acker, D. Geysen, K. Binnemans, J. Fransaer, B. Blanpain, B. Mishra, D. Apelian, Journal of Metals (JOM) 2011, 63(12), 14.