Methods in your magnets

A simple way to separate the rare earth magnetic metals neodymium and dysprosium has been developed by researchers in the USA. These metals are, as their name might imply rare, and so are costly yet required in a wide range of electronic devices and scientific instruments. Separating them at device end-of-life has always been an expensive and time-consuming process. Now, Eric Schelter and colleagues have used a selective ligand that binds to one metal and not the other to provide a way to filter the soluble form from the other in a non-soluble form. “It’s, in principle, easier to get the neodymium and dysprosium out of technology than it is to go back and mine more of the minerals they are originally found in,” Schelter said. “Those minerals have five elements to separate, whereas the neodymium magnet in a wind turbine generator only has two.”