Recovery of rare earths from spent NdFeB magnets of wind turbine: Leaching and kinetic aspects

Waste Manag. 2018 May;75:486-498. doi: 10.1016/j.wasman.2018.01.033. Epub 2018 Feb 1.


Increasing demands of rare earth (RE) metals for advanced technological applications coupled with the scarcity of primary resources have led to the development of processes to treat secondary resources like scraps or end of life products that are often rich in such metals. Spent NdFeB magnet may serve as a potential source of rare earths containing around ∼30% of neodymium and other rare earths. In the present investigation, a pyro-hydrometallurgical process has been developed to recover rare earth elements (Nd, Pr and Dy) from the spent wind turbine magnet. The spent magnet is demagnetized and roasted at 1123 K to convert rare earths and iron to their respective oxides. Roasting of the magnet not only provides selectivity, but enhances the leaching efficiency also. The leaching of the roasted sample with 0.5 M hydrochloric acid at 368 K, 100 g/L pulp density and 500 rpm for 300 min selectively recovers the rare earth elements almost quantitatively leaving iron oxide in the residue. Leaching of rare earth elements with hydrochloric acid follows the mixed controlled kinetic model with activation energy (Ea) of 30.1 kJ/mol in the temperature range 348-368 K. The leaching mechanism is further established by characterizing the leach residues obtained at different time intervals by scanning electron microscopy- energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (SEM-EDS) and X-ray diffraction (XRD). Individual rare earth elements from the leach solution containing 16.8 g/L of Nd, 3.8 g/L Pr, 0.28 g/L of Dy and other minor impurity elements could be separated by solvent extraction. However, mixed rare earth oxide of 99% purity was produced by oxalate precipitation followed by roasting. The leach residue comprising of pure hematite has a potential to be used as pigment or can find other applications.

Keywords: Kinetics; Leaching; Roasting; Spent NdFeB magnet; Wind turbine.

MeSH terms

  • Iron
  • Magnets*
  • Metals, Rare Earth*
  • Neodymium
  • Recycling*


  • Metals, Rare Earth
  • Neodymium
  • Iron