Projects / Programmes source: ARIS

Effective recycling of abrasive sludge in the production of Sm2Co17 magnets for a waste-free economy

Research activity

Code Science Field Subfield
2.04.00  Engineering sciences and technologies  Materials science and technology   

Code Science Field
T450  Technological sciences  Metal technology, metallurgy, metal products 

Code Science Field
2.05  Engineering and Technology  Materials engineering 
critical raw materials, rare earths, metals and alloys, permanent magnets, Sm-Co, recycling
Evaluation (rules)
source: COBISS
Researchers (10)
no. Code Name and surname Research area Role Period No. of publicationsNo. of publications
1.  50037  PhD Milana Karajić  Chemistry  Researcher  2018 - 2021  17 
2.  04355  PhD Spomenka Kobe  Materials science and technology  Researcher  2018 - 2021  767 
3.  24982  PhD Benjamin Podmiljšak  Materials science and technology  Researcher  2018 - 2021  96 
4.  53417  Tina Radošević    Technical associate  2019 - 2021  80 
5.  51451  PhD Sorour Semsari Parapari  Materials science and technology  Researcher  2020 - 2021  80 
6.  32166  PhD Marko Soderžnik  Materials science and technology  Researcher  2018 - 2019  111 
7.  26192  PhD Irena Škulj  Materials science and technology  Researcher  2018  47 
8.  19030  PhD Sašo Šturm  Materials science and technology  Researcher  2018 - 2021  661 
9.  50690  PhD Xuan Xu  Materials science and technology  Researcher  2018 - 2020  31 
10.  18824  PhD Kristina Žužek  Materials science and technology  Head  2018 - 2021  365 
Organisations (2)
no. Code Research organisation City Registration number No. of publicationsNo. of publications
1.  0106  Jožef Stefan Institute  Ljubljana  5051606000  91,921 
2.  0805  MAGNETI LJUBLJANA, Podjetje za proizvodnjo magnetnih materialov, d.d. (Slovene)  Ljubljana  5045789000  313 
A circular economy of the raw materials is one of the most crucial goals necessary for modern Europe, as most of them come from other continents. This is even more the case for the permanent magnets, which are integral to energy conversion across the renewable energy and electric mobility sectors. Sm-Co magnets take only a small part in the magnet production, but their ability to operate at high temperatures makes them crucial for many applications, with no alternatives available yet. With the latest increase in pricing of Sm and Co and the problem of an unpredictable export policy of these raw materials, it is even more crucial for European companies, like Magneti d.d., to invest in recycling of production wastes. These occur during the production of already made Sm-Co magnets, which have to be cut and grinded into the desired size for the customer, which with miniaturization, has to be more and more precise. The abrasive slug is for now being sold to a remote recycling plant for a fraction of the value of the raw materials in it, were it is energetically inefficiently being transformed back into raw material by a pyrometallurgical approach. The objective of the proposed project is the creation of a much more environmentally friendly ‘short cycle’ re-processing route enabling a new circular economy ecosystem for the Magneti d.d. company. This will be achieved by developing a recycling system where all of the useful material in the abrasive slug isreturned into the production system. A direct and an indirect recycling routes will tack this problem. Directly, by a) reusing the recovered magnetic powder and feeding it back into production via optimizing the sintering parameters, b) using the spark-plasma-sintering (SPS) technique to ensure minimal grain growth or c) mix the powder with an appropriate polymer and produce polymer bonded magnets by injection moulding. A more high risk-high gain approach is represented by the indirect recycling route, were we will recover the alloy constituents hydrometallurgicaly by using Ionic liquids, which offer a high potential to make solvent (i.e. the liquid-liquid) extraction processes more efficient. After Sm and Co metal extraction, two routes will be followed: a) electrodeposition to make Sm-Co alloys directly out of ionic liquids and b) precipitation of metals individually to recover the raw material. A thorough LCA and LCC will be conducted to evaluate which of the proposed techniques could be applicable from the economic and environmental point of view for the company. The available high level of interdisciplinary scientific and technical expertise within the project group from JSI and Magneti d.d offers unique opportunities to develop a full corpus of knowledge regarding opportunities, both in scientific excellence and exploitation, including advanced nanotechnologies that are the key to solving the strategically important questions about critical raw materials. The development of a secondary recycling route for Sm-Co magnetic materials, Magneti d.d. could reuse 95 % of now lost Sm-Co, making the production more cost effective thereby giving them an advantage over other magnet producers. On the short and medium time frame, the proposed new thechnology will increase the demand, production and the number of jobs in Magneti d.d. This novel technology would in general protect Magneti d.d., from unstable supplies, leading to stronger high-tech material sector within Slovenia and the EU.
Significance for science
Permanent-magnets-based research has a long and strong tradition in Slovenia. The group at the JSI has made many important contributions with Sm-Co and Nd-Fe-B fields of research in the past 25 years with more than 100 publications in the field of permanent magnetism, 20 in electrochemistry and several successfully finished and still running projects on recycling of PMs. In addition, Magneti has for more than 25 years been one of Europe’s most successful small/medium magnet producers. These two partners have all the ingredients required to push forward with a new production technology that will make the company comparative in the harsh magnet market and will lead to some important scientific breakthroughs for the research team as a whole. The most important breakthroughs that we can expect include: • the successful development of a waste free production line with the use of new separation technologies for Sm-Co alloys with resource savings up to 13 %, making the company Magneti more independent of resource shortages and price fluctuations • development of a more economical and environment friendly separation technique, with lower energy consumption than pyrometallurgical routes and cleaner production by substantially reducing the amounts of acids and other chemicals compared to the hydrometallurgical routes We expect these scientific developments to lead to important publications in prestigious scientific and technology journals (2-4 per year in the second, third and +1 years of the project, with publications in open source journals), patentable materials and technologies that will benefit all of the members of the research team (1-3 in total, relating to the separation technique, the sintering technique and the industrial upscaling), the successful application for future scientific funds for related projects that will benefit Slovenian scientists working in this field at all levels. The research team will also be open to the potential of licensing technological developments patented in the course of the project to companies in Slovenia, Europe and throughout the world.
Significance for the country
The direct impacts of the project are potentially very large with respect to the area of industry to which it applies. These impacts can be broken down into the following areas: The economic benefits for the company Magneti d.d., as well as for the Slovenian and EU economies in more general terms. Although the market share of Sm-Co magnets is for now much smaller than for Nd-Fe-B magnets, there are specific applications that can only operate with this type of magnets, such as TWTs, accelerometers, aeronautic gyroscopes and aircraft-engine micro-motors and micro-generators. There is also a need of such magnets in the electric vehicle market, which is already expanding rapidly. Electric vehicles contain a huge 5-10kG amounts of RE-TM magnets in each vehicle. A small part of this market is a very large business indeed. With the ability to produce these magnets more efficiently than the competition, it will increase Magneti’s market share in the near future. The project would have the following direct economic effects: a reduction in financial losses, because Magneti avoids selling the material value of its slug under-priced; a growth in sales for Magneti of 10-20% in the next 5 years as a result of the realised project; a significant contribution to the Slovenian national economy, related to the economic success of the project; a market share of up to 50% for EU producers, in relation to the other world producers, over the next 10 years as a result of sales from Magneti and company partnerships with other Slovenian and EU producers.   Employment at Magneti. The expected economic success will also be reflected in increased employment at Magneti: an estimated 10-20 more people will be employed over the next 5 years, because of the recycling line and the higher production rates. The environment and energy efficiency. The benefits to the environment will come from two sources. Directly, through the cleaner processing of RE-TM magnets in comparison to non-RE-TM magnets, like ferrites and AlNiCos, which are produced in relatively “dirty” processes rather than the “clean” inert-gas atmospheres of RE-TM magnets and by eliminating the transport of the slug to distant recycling companies. This improves the local conditions for employees through more pleasant working conditions as well as a cleaner environment in Slovenia, in general. Indirectly, the environment benefits through the improved and new applications made possible by the introduction of high-temperature permanent magnets, enabling cleaner, more-energy-efficient technologies. This applies most particularly to the applications in transport.
Most important scientific results
Most important socioeconomically and culturally relevant results Interim report
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