European Rare Earth Magnet Recycling Network.
Because China dominates the rare-earth market and is reducing its export quota, there is a very high supply risk for rare earths in Europe. To tackle this rare-earth crisis, Europe needs to invest in primary mining, substitution and, in particular, urban mining/recycling. To date, less than 1% of the rare earths are being recycled, due to, amongst others, a lack of efficient recycling technologies. The creation of a rare-earth recycling industry in Europe urgently requires an “army” of skilled chemists and engineers, who can tackle the barriers to develop fully closed-loop environmentally-friendly recycling flow sheets. EREAN will train 15 young researchers (12 ESR + 3 ER) in the S/T of rare earths, with emphasis on the recycling of these elements from permanent magnets. An intensive intersectoral and interdisciplinary collaboration has been established in the EREAN consortium, which covers the full materials loop, from urban mine to magnet. EREAN will bundle European expertise in a cluster of excellence. Research challenges include the development of efficient extraction of rare-earth-containing materials from electronic waste scrap, removal of exogen elements (Fe, Ni, B) by pyro/hydrometallurgical methods to produce a concentrate of rare earths, new separation methods, direct electrochemical reduction of rare-earth oxides into metals, and the preparation of new magnets. By training the researchers in basic and applied rare-earth sciences, with emphasis on extraction and separation methods and rare-earth metallurgy, sustainable materials management, recycling methods, life cycle assessment (LCA), and the principles of urban mining, they will become the much needed “rare earthers” for employment in the growing European rare-earth industry. Concurrently, they will receive training in a multitude of soft skills, increasing their employability in the materials recycling and metallurgical industries.