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Honda extracts rare earths from NiMH

Tue, 04/16/2013 - 18:36 -- Ruth Williams

Honda has developed the first system to extract rare earth metals from nickel-metal hydride batteries to create new batteries for hybrid vehicles.

The process extracts an oxide from spent batteries from a recycling plant. By applying molten salt electrolysis to the oxide Honda has succeeded in extracting the rare earth metals, which can be used in nickel metal hydride batteries as negative-electrode materials. The extracted metals have a purity of 99% and the method means up to 80% of the rare earth metals can be recycled from the batteries. Honda plans to extract the metals from hybrid motors and lithium-ion batteries as well as the nickel-metal hydride batteries.

Japan Metals and Chemicals own the recycling plant and can now supply the extracted rare earths to a battery manufacturer. The first batch was extracted from 386 Honda hybrid cars that had been damaged in the Japanese earthquake in 2011. 

Honda intends to recycle the metals extracted from used nickel-metal hydride batteries as they are replaced at Honda dealerships. The collected batteries will be dismantled by the Japan Metals and Chemicals plant to extract the rare earths, which will then be used by Honda in new batteries.