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Alleviating Supply Pressure – UWin Nanotech Develops Rare Earth Metals Recycling Technology

By Korbin Lan
Published: Jul 07,2019

The America China Trade War has caused people to once again pay attention to the “Rare earth metals”. Although it is listed as a national strategic mineral, it is actually is not particularly rare; furthermore, it is also widely used in a wide variety of electronic and industrial products. Taiwan’s UWin Nanotech is currently developing a Rare Earth Metals recycling solution and hopes to bring about a breakthrough change in the rare earth supply chain.

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The term “Rare Earth Metals” refers to a total of seventeen group III subgroup elements on the periodic table, along with Scandium, Yttrium and Lanthanides, and they are, therefore, also called “Rare Earth Elements.”

Rare Earths are Common in Everyday Life with a Visible Footprint in the Consumer and Industrial Sectors

Nevertheless, the average person holds the misconception that rare earths are only utilized in extremely high-level and specialized application scenarios. However, on the contrary, rare earths are actually closely related to the lives of the general public, and they can be found in many everyday products and industrial applications, such as LCD panels, laser equipment, stained glass, and optical supplies and fluorescent materials. Indeed, their uses are not just limited to cutting-edge areas of defense and aerospace.

Taking neodymium as an example, it is a requisite metal element in the manufacture of permanent magnets (radon magnets) and loudspeaker products. Furthermore, permanent magnets are widely used in industrial sectors; therefore, it is categorized as an elemental component of electromechanical applications. These applications include motor systems for electric vehicles, which are currently enjoying a great deal of popularity and utilize permanent magnets.

Lanthanum and dysprosium are also rare earth metals, and they are important components in optical glass and magnetic materials respectively. Of these two rare earth metals, dysprosium is also a key element in color printer nozzles, which is one of the cornerstones of the consumer electronics market.

Production and Mining of Rare Earths Directly Damages the Environment

It is apparent that rare earths are not special materials at the top of a pyramid, and as important raw materials for all industries, they affect everyone. However, the production of rare earths is extremely limited, and around the world, only a small number of nations have the capacity for rare earth elements production. Among them, China is the largest exporter and the world’s dominant supplier.

According to United States Geological Survey (USGS) statistics, the global rare earth consumption in 2018 was approximately 170,000 tons, and China was the leading nation in terms of production and export, supplying about 90% of the global total. As soon as the supply destabilizes or the price experiences significant fluctuations, the impact will be felt by all industries.

On the other hand, even though rare earths are commonly found in the earth's crust, during the process of mining and refining, large amount of chemicals are utilized for mining and purification. Consequently, severe environmental pollution and ecological damage are common occurrences in rare earth mining areas, and other than China, many countries opt not to carry out mining.

Rare Earth Metals Recycling Technology – UW-170 Can Strip 17 Metals at a Time

However, the recycling of rare earths is a challenge, and according to United Nations statistics, the recycling rate of rare earths is less than 1%. Hence, the supply is almost completely dependent on mining, and this is a major threat to the sustainability of the ecology and industry.

Having observed the demand for industry and the importance for environmental protection, international precious metals stripping and total solutions provider UWin Nanotech are currently engaged in R&D for a rare earths recycling solution and are attempting to address the supply pressures of rare earths.

Kenny Hsu, Managing Director of UWin Nanotech, stated that although the overall amount of rare earths usage is not very large, rare earths play a crucial role in a wide variety of industries, and once there are shortages or cost increases, the result will be a panic in the supply chain. As a result, UWin Nanotech has been engaged in the long-term research and development of rare earths recycling solutions. Currently, UWin Nanotech has already developed the UW-170 rare earths stripping prescription, and this solution is also both environmentally friendly and non-toxic and capable of rapidly stripping rare earth metals from waste materials.

Kenny Hsu pointed out that UW-170 use the rare earth minerals from Jiangxi, China, to carry out the actual testing, and it has the capability of treating all of the 17 rare earth metals simultaneously. A number of processes can be reduced via the solution’s effective dissolution rate, and the amount of liquid chemicals used can also be reduced.

Currently, UWin Nanotech is still engaged in the research phase for rare earth metals, and they are continuing to promote the reduction and purification of rare earth metals by means of their UW-170 solution. This will enable these minerals, which significantly affect industries, to be reused and improve economic efficiency for enterprises. At the same time, it also takes environmental protection into account and avoids the destruction of the earth's ecology.

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