Have you ever heard of rare earth magnets (RE magnets)? Probably not! But did you know that you use those magnets every day? And do you know why rare earths are crucial for our modern lives? Join the partners of the EU project SUSMAGPRO at their roadshow stop at Leiden University to find out. In addition to several interactive exhibitions pieces and hands-on activities on the topic of RE magnets and related environmental, social and economic challenges, a pilot process inculding a robotic arm will be demonstrated: the automated identification and separation of rare earth magnets from hard drives.
Why should we care about a circular economy for RE magnets?
The EU-funded project SUSMAGPRO (H2020 programme) addresses the establishment of a circular economy for permanent magnets, which are an essential part of many products we use every day, e. g. washing machines, laptops or flatscreens, but also that play a key role in achieving the green transition, like water pumps, wind turbines and e-vehicles. Permanent magnets are often based upon Rare Earths (RE). RE are not, in fact, rare, but their mining and refining remain difficult and are linked to environmental damage and hazardous waste, despite investments in better processes and monitoring practices.
RE are also classified as Critical Raw Materials, as the EU is heavily dependent on their import, with one single country, namely China, dominating the supply. The 18 European project partners of SUSMAGPRO are developing solutions to identify and separate end-of-life RE magnets from waste products more easily and recover the valuable RE, as well as to produce reliable recycled RE magnets in more sustainable processes. The recycled magnets are demonstrated in water pumps, loudspeakers and motors with manufacturers. Project partners also develop circular economy business models to counteract landfilling and unsustainable business-as-usual practices. By paving the way to a more sustainable supply chain of these highly demanded industrial commodities, SUSMAGPRO contributes to the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals 7, 8, 9, 12, 14 and 15.
In the frame of the Leiden European City of Science Festival, the H2020 project SUSMAGPRO will be showcased in an interactive exhibition on campus at the Institute of Environmental Sciences (CML) on 7 June 2022 at 10:00 - 20:00 CEST. Interested visitors can learn all about rare earth magnets, why they are essential to our modern lives, the challenges connected to them and which solutions SUSMAGPRO provides.
In addition to an interactive exhibition and hands-on activities, the team of project partner Leiden University have prepared exciting lectures on the topic and visitors will have the opportunity to see one of the SUSMAGPRO pilots in action: the automated, mobile sensing line to separate Rare Earth magnets from WEEE.