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Rare earth elements finally getting recycled

Washington , Mon, 30 Apr 2012 ANI

Washington, Apr 30 (ANI): A multinational automobiles manufacturer has announced plans to create what it's calling world's first mass-production process for recycling rare earth metals - crucial electric vehicle battery materials - on a large scale.

Honda plans on doing that with spent nickel-metal hydride batteries.

Rare earth metals - a set of seventeen chemical elements, including scandium, promethium, yttrium and cerium - come from a handful of places in the world.

Honda dealerships will collect used batteries from customers and then send the parts to Japan Metals and Chemicals for the actual recycling, the Discovery News reported.

Japan Metals and Chemicals intends to disassemble the batteries, sort out the active substances, and then extract rare earth elements as well as the nickel and cobalt.

The company already has an established heat treatment process for the extraction, according to Honda.

As much as 80 percent of the rare earth metals in used nickel-metal hydride batteries can be extracted with this new process, the automaker said.

Once they've been extracted, the metals can be reused not only in batteries but in other car parts too.

The term "rare earth," while a bit of a historical misnomer, stuck around primarily because these elements aren't likely to be concentrated in exploitable ore deposits, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Also, their availability from China, which supplies most of the world's demand, hinges on several volatile factors like environmental regulations, export limits, and territorial control of mining operations. (ANI)

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