Honda extracts rare earth metals from used hybrid batteries, turns them into new batteries

Honda rare earth metals in batteries
© Honda

Despite their name, rare earth metals aren't actually that rare, but they are important for a variety of green technologies. Since China controls most of the production and has been putting restrictions on exports in the recent past, engineers have been working on ways to reduce their use and recycle them more effectively.

2014 Honda Accord PHEV plug-in hybrid© Honda

One example of this is a new recycling process created by Honda. They basically close the nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) battery loop by extracting rare earth metals from old, used batteries and using it to make new ones.

So far, Honda has been extracting an oxide containing rare earth metals from used nickel-metal hydride batteries at the plant of Japan Metals & Chemicals Co., Ltd. (JMC). Now, by applying molten salt electrolysis to this oxide, Honda has succeeded in extracting metallized rare earth that can be used directly as negative-electrode materials for nickel-metal hydride batteries. The rare earth metals extracted in this process has a purity of more than 99% which is as high as that of ordinary traded, newly mined rare earth metals. In addition, the new process enables the extraction of as much as above 80% of rare earth metals contained in nickel-metal hydride battery. (source)

This process should also be applicable to other parts that contain rare earths, such as various electronic parts and some electric motors. Why go mine it from the Earth's crust if we can get it from waste?

Via Honda

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