Neodymium, the rare earth mineral that could shape the future of electric cars | Futuristic Research.
Neodymium is a mineral that is hidden in multiple types of equipment, from the battery of your smartphone, the hard drive of your computer, magnets, in the cathode ray tube of your TV, fluorescent lamps, among others. However, many are unaware of this mineral, identified as Nd in the periodic table, but which could undoubtedly be important in the future of electric cars.
According to the official description of the periodic table, Neodymium is a mineral that belongs to the rare earth group whose symbol is Nd and its atomic number 60, it was discovered by Carl F. Auer von Welsbach, a German scientist, in 1885. However, it was Professor Allan Walton of the University of Birmingham, director of the Hypromag firm, who has discovered other uses of Neodymium from old computer hard drives.
Multiple uses of Neodymium in daily life
“Neodymium is responsible for most, if not all, of the growth in demand for rare earth right now,” said Roderick Eggert, deputy director of the Institute for Critical Materials at the Colorado School of Mines.
But what is rare earth? In the periodic table, those that are used in new technologies are known as “rare earth minerals”, this is a group of minerals, 17 elements according to the periodic table, which in turn are classified in the heavy rare earth or light rare earth, depending on their atomic weight.
Although it is not understood at first glance, part of these minerals is used in current components of our daily life, mainly the rare earth magnetic metals: dysprosium, neodymium and praseodymium.
According to a CNBC report in 2018, rare earth metals are found in magnets responsible for an iPhone vibrating, AirPods playing music, wind turbines generating power, and the spinning of turbines from a Tesla Model 3 engine. The powerful magnets capable of doing this arises from the combination of neodymium with iron and boron.
Importance of rare earth magnets in electric cars
Electric cars have two types of motors: coil motors (with copper wire) and those with permanent magnets, this is where rare earth metals such as neodymium enter. In this sense, many investigations indicate that the use of permanent magnets translates into powerful and efficient motors with fewer electromagnetic components.
These magnets arise from rare earth light metal combinations that drive hybrid EV and BEV electric vehicles. According to a Trend Investing report on October 16, 2017, UBS’s forecast for rare earth demand will rise 6.55 times in a world 100 percent dominated by electric cars.
The rare earth magnets are the most powerful of all known magnets by man, and used mainly neodymium and praseodymium (NDPR).
Due to the boom in demand for electric cars, the magnetic metals used for the engine of these cars also increase in value. In fact, some studies claim that : “Rare earths are the vitamins necessary for the change from a carbon-based economy to the new electronic economy of the 21st century.”
For this reason, China is the country that dominates the resources and use of rare earths, stopping its export, in turn, has also successfully advanced in the end-use supply chain.
However, the use of earth magnets is increasing, since according to the market research group IMARC:
“It is forecast that in a couple of decades we will have a million electric vehicles on the road in the US And that will lead to increased demand for neodymium . “But, not everything is rosy: Price: value and contamination ratio
Although neodymium is one of the most sought-after rare earth minerals, specialists point out that it will increase in value over time, at the same time, this mineral poses a great danger to the environment.
Reports suggest that neodymium can be distributed in the environment through petroleum-producing industries, waste from household equipment, which will later accumulate in soil water, increasing the concentration of this mineral in humans, animals and soil particles.
This is why for years, many vehicle manufacturers have sought to limit the use of this type of metal. Reports claim that neodymium has become a real monopoly (80% of the world market), increasing its price considerably in recent years, which in addition to boosting the price of electric cars, also boosts illegal mining.
Toyota, one of the leading automakers to dispense with the use of Neodymium, claims that the demand for this mineral would exceed the supply in 2025. This is why currently 50 percent of the neodymium has been replaced by lanthanum and cerium, other land variants rare but 20 percent cheaper.
Professor Walton’s Green Solution
This is when Professor Walton comes in and a powerful solution, which would guarantee to continue using Neomide at a lower cost, just by recycling your old computers. And it is that together with Rex Harris, they discovered that by running hydrogen gas on these hard drives it can convert magnets into a powder that can be reused.
Our goal is to develop a complete recycling supply chain for rare earth magnets based on neodymium iron boron (NdFeB). Hypromag has licensed the proprietary technology called HPMS (Magnetic Scrap Hydrogen Processing) developed at the University of Birmingham Magnetic Materials Group (MMG).
According to scientists, this NdFeB (Neomidium, Iron, Boron) powder, which is extracted from these junk products as hard drives, has an alloy form that can be re-marketed in new rare earth magnets.
The creators assure that this is an excellent business opportunity, since there is a great global demand for this mineral, as mentioned above, in addition to being an ecological solution that will not affect the environment.
The company indicated that it is waiting to close an agreement with the British automotive company Bentley, likewise, reported having received a grant of more than $ 3.3 million from Innovate UK and an investment of $ 637,000 from Mkango, an African mine.
Although it is a great initiative and opportunity to continue producing powerful motors for electric cars, Hypromag points out that this will only satisfy a fraction of the growing demand for these rare earth magnets.