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DOE Innovation Hub Enters Joint Industry Project to Recycle Domestic Rare-Earth Materials

Dept. of Energy

The Critical Materials Institute, a U.S. Department of Energy Innovation Hub led by Ames Laboratory, has announced that one of its industry associates, Momentum Technologies, Inc., has entered into a letter of intent with Wistron GreenTech Corporation, Texas, pertaining to future collaboration in the field of recovering rare-earth elements from electronic waste. Wistron GreenTech is the green recycling arm of Wistron Corporation, which designs and manufactures technology products for global distribution and has annual revenues exceeding $20 billion.

Rare-earth elements are in high demand due to their special uses in consumer electronics, hybrid/electric vehicles, wind turbines, hard disk drives, jet engines, missile guidance systems, and more. Despite their vital role, at least 99 percent of rare-earth elements are thrown away once the products containing them reach the end of their life due to recycling technologies that are inefficient, costly and environmentally hazardous.

“Since the invention of the smartphone, electronic waste has been growing at a rapid rate. There is now a large stockpile of material to collect rare-earths from. Using our proprietary process, we can collect these critical materials for reuse in a way that is much more efficient compared to mining. This way we can meet the rocketing demand for rare-earths in a sustainable way while also diversifying supply for manufacturers,” said Preston Bryant, CEO of Momentum.

This approach has been attempted before, but Momentum’s technology, which was developed by the U.S. Department of Energy at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Idaho National Laboratory in project work for the Critical Materials Institute, is significantly more efficient and lower in cost than traditional processes, requiring only a single stage for processing. The technology recovers highly pure rare-earth oxides (>99.8%) from a wide range of magnetic waste feedstocks, including MRI machines, hard disk drives, cell phones, magnet manufacturing scrap, and electric motors.

The announcement comes on the heels of President Donald Trump signing an executive order on Dec. 20, 2017, that calls for an end to U.S. reliance on foreign sources of critical materials.

To learn more about Ames Laboratory and the Critical Materials Institute, and to view the original press release, visit http://bit.ly/2BjQePR.

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