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NEOdymium-Iron-Boron base materials, fabrication techniques and recycling solutions to HIghly REduce the consumption of Rare Earths in Permanent Magnets for Wind Energy Application

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - NEOHIRE (NEOdymium-Iron-Boron base materials, fabrication techniques and recycling solutions to HIghly REduce the consumption of Rare Earths in Permanent Magnets for Wind Energy Application)

Berichtszeitraum: 2018-08-01 bis 2020-01-31

The electric power system will play a key role to achieve a balance between electricity supply, conversion, transport and use of energy in order to reach a secure, competitive and sustainable energy system by 2050 in the European Union. In that sense, one of the most important items to be considered is the massive integration of wind energy into the smart grids, since this kind of energy is the most sustainable and contribute to the balance and accomplishment of the everyday most high-demanded electricity networks requirements. Wind energy is now 15% of the EU’s electricity demand (up from 14% in 2018).
During the last decade, large research efforts were devoted to the development of highly efficient and reliable wind turbines based on Neodymium-Iron-Boron Permanent Magnets (NdFeB PM), being still necessary to break through 3 important barriers: a) Strong dependency on China for supply and high price of Rare Earth Elements (REEs). b) High difficulty of substitution of REE in PM. c) Several challenges have to be overcome for commercially viable, large-scale REE recycling.
NEOHIRE main objective is to reduce the use of Rare Earth Elements (REE), and Cobalt and Gallium in the permanent magnets used in Wind Turbine Generators (WTG).
The main conclusions of the action are:
1. Partners have developed a new powder that does not contain either heavy rare earths or cobalt or gallium in its composition.
2. Direct recycling of end of life (EoL) sintered magnets resulted in a powder whose properties are comparable to commercial powders.
3. Partners produced 5 kg of recycled powder and a prototype to validate the project approach.
4. It was proposed an alternative design for a high speed WTG. It was obtained a similar performance with 30 % reduction of NdFeB.
5. NEOHIRE magnets can be considered as not fatigue-critical components.
6. Indirect recycling methods for both bonded and sintered magnets have been developed.
7. Environmental impact of recycling and production of NEOHIRE magnets is lower than the impact of sintered magnets used at present.
NEOHIRE project ended in January 2020. Partners have completed the experimental plan proposed in the description of the action. Most of the objectives have been achieved. CEIT, UoB and AICHI STEEL have obtained an anisotropic powder using as precursor an isotropic gas atomised powder. The new powder does not contain either heavy rare earths or cobalt or gallium in its composition. Consequently, the developed solution highly reduces the use of CRM, as compared with sintered magnets. UoB has optimised the processing parameters for producing large batches of recycled powder. KOLEKTOR has produced anisotropic test samples by injection moulding using recycled powder. CEIT, UPV/EHU and UoB have conducted microstructural and magnetic characterization. KOLEKTOR has performed magnetic, mechanical and corrosion tests. Physical, mechanical and magnetic properties are satisfactory. FRAUNHOFER has carried out cyclic and fatigue testing, studying the interaction between mechanical and magnetic properties. No magnetic loss could be observed while the bonded magnets are mechanical loaded under cyclic respectively fatigue loading. INDAR provided the design requirements of the WTG. CIDAUT and CEIT designed the new WTG. The new design with NEOHIRE magnets exhibits similar performance with 30% reduction of NdFeB alloy. FRAUNHOFER has developed design concept for fatigue. The NEOHIRE magnets can be considered as not fatigue-critical components. UoB produced 5 kg of recycled powder to manufacture a prototype. KOLEKTOR manufactured and tested the prototype. NEOHIRE magnets compared to standard sintered magnets (more expensive and powerful) achieved 85 % of induced voltage in the motor. KU LEUVEN has developed four new recycling concepts for the recycling of NdFeB magnets and the recovery of critical raw materials from NdFeB PM magnets. UNIFI and CIDAUT have estimated the manufacturing impact of PM in a comparative way, verified potential social impact considering REE extraction and estimated recycling & new processes impact. Manufacturing and recycling of NEOHIRE bonded magnets are sustainable. The Magnetic Materials Group of UoB has licensed a recycling process from electrical waste to a company called HYPROMAG LTD. in the UK. A broad dissemination activity has been carried out by the Partners to inform stakeholders and general audience about the results of the project. Partners have participated in 13 conferences, 5 fairs, and 1 seminar. Results have been published in 6 peer reviewed journals. The web site of the NEOHIRE project (http://neohire.eu/) will remain open during the next five years to continue this dissemination activity. It will be updated periodically with news and publications.
NEOHIRE has develop tools that can reduce the use of Neodymium in Wind Turbine Generators (WTG) by about a 30 wt%. The project has developed a NdFeB alloy and processing technology that eliminate Heavy Rare Earths (Dysprosium and Terbium), Cobalt and Gallium in a new generation of bonded magnets for this application. Combining new alloy developments and shaping capabilities, it was feasible to design new permanent magnet generators with enhanced performance in terms of the generable electric power. A novel PM shape and WTG electromagnetic design have been proposed to increase the deliverable electric power in NdFeB WTG from current 2.74 MW to 3.56 MW for 1 tonne of Neodymium.
NEOHIRE have developed recycling processes for both (old) sintered and (novel) resin-bonded NdFeB magnets. The Life Cycle Sustainability approach implemented in NEOHIRE has compared old and new magnets in a whole life cycle perspective (from raw materials production to the recycling of the end of life product). The overall environmental assessment is positive for the new materials and processing technologies.
NEOHIRE will help to mitigate the future bottlenecks in the material supply chain. The European Union (EU) dependency of external suppliers of some Critical Raw Materials (Dysprosium, Neodymium, Cobalt and Gallium) will be reduced. NEOHIRE technological and scientific achievements will also have an impact in other sectors where NdFeB magnets are used, such as automotive, aeronautics, medical devices or metals recycling.
Employment is one of the most sensitive issues for welfare and living standards — for individual income and self respect as much as for the EU social and tax system. As the project will directly increase the competitiveness and sustainability of the EU wind energy sector, it will contribute to reinforce the creation of employment in the sector. It will help to create as well a new recycling framework and business. It will also have an important societal impact since the electricity production costs will decrease, which could also result in a reduction of the cost of electricity for citizens. Phenomena such as climate change, the depletion of resources, growing populations, pollution and consumption levels will push changes in EU Energy Sector. Wind energy is an attractive alternative to fossil fuels. It is plentiful, renewable, widely distributed, clean and produces no greenhouse gas emissions.

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