Brussels -- Umicore and Rhodia have jointly developed a unique process for the recycling of rare earth elements from Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) rechargeable batteries. This recycling process combines the capabilities of Umicore’s proprietary Ultra High Temperature (UHT) battery recycling process with Rhodia’s rare earth refining competences. The process can service the whole range of NiMH batteries from portable applications to the batteries for hybrid electric vehicles. It is expected that first recovery of rare earth materials could take place by the end of this year.
Sybolt Brouwer, General Manager Battery Recycling and Recycling Development at Umicore, commented: “This is the first industrial process that closes the loop of the rare earths contained in NiMH batteries. It demonstrates the uniqueness and flexibility of Umicore's UHT recycling technology and underlines our commitment to closing the materials loop.”
Frédéric Carencotte, Industrial Director of Rhodia Rare Earth Systems, said: “After the recycling of rare earths contained in low energy lamps, this agreement represents a new step in our strategy to recycle rare earths from end-of-life equipment.”
The main use of nickel metal hydride batteries is in rechargeable AA and AAA batteries (typically used in domestic applications such as cordless phones, toys and games), power tools and hybrid electric vehicles. A typical NiMH battery will contain some seven percent of rare earth elements including cerium, lanthanum, neodymium and praseodymium. This equates to some one gramme of rare earth for a AAA battery, 60 grammes for a household power tool and two kilogrammes for a hybrid electric vehicle battery. Lithium-ion rechargeable batteries contain no meaningful amounts of rare earth elements.
Quelle: Umicor Group / Rhodia Group