New "Win2Wal" project for the laboratory of of molecular biomimetic

The GEPI4REE project "Specific rare earth ion microflotation system for the development of a process for the recovery and purification of Neodymium from electronic waste" has just been financed by the Walloon region WIN²Wal 2021.

Rare earths are one of the most important raw materials of the last few years. In the race to optimize energy consumption, permanent magnets based on rare earths have become essential to the manufacture of light and compact electric motors. They have revolutionized mobility by electrifying it and introducing new forms of mobility (cars, bicycles, scooters, etc.). At present, the first out-of-use products of the energy transition (hybrid and electric cars, scooters, etc.) and digital (smartphones, tablets, etc.) are arriving on the secondary resources market. The permanent magnets present in Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) or End-of-Life Vehicles (ELV), of general formula Nd2Fe14B, are present in varying quantities depending on the type of product: from 2g of Nd2Fe14B magnet in a smartphone to 1.2kg in an electric car. Neodymium (Nd) is the main rare earth present, but other rare earths, such as dysprosium, praseodymium, etc., are also used.

The objective of the project is to study bioflotation as an alternative to solvent extraction to separate and purify neodymium in solution (ions). For this purpose, the project will consist in developing a biological collector, i.e. an element with surfactant properties that can on the one hand recognize and bind specifically to the neodymium ion and on the other hand cling to the air bubbles formed in the flotation chamber.


Patricia Lassaux

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