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Bringing magnet manufacturing back to France

​CEA-Liten is leading efforts to develop a high-performance, economically competitive, and sovereign permanent magnet manufacturing industry in France. The recovery and recycling of critical materials will be one of its main pillars. 

Published on 6 December 2022

Permanent magnets are vital to many of the new technologies that will enable the energy transition. The systems inside electric vehicles and wind turbines are prime examples. Among the high-performance components that make up these systems are neodymium (NdFeB) magnets. These particularly powerful magnets can help make electric machines substantially more compact, reliable, and efficient. The downside is that they contain more than 30% rare metals. China has a virtual monopoly on neodymium and dysprosium production, for example, and reducing dependency on foreign suppliers for these and other rare metals is now a major strategic challenge for all of Europe, including France. 

The CEA is joining forces with Orano, Valeo, Paprec, and Daimantel France to lay the groundwork for a domestic high-performance permanent magnet industry under a project called MAGNOLIA. By 2025 the partners will:

  • Develop technologies to manufacture sintered magnets in France and scale these technologies up on pilot and small-run production lines. A go/no-go decision to deploy volume manufacturing will be made in 2025.
  • Lay the groundwork for an electric motor collection, dismantling, and recycling industry in France. This nascent industry will have to ensure stable and economically-competitive prices and a secure domestic permanent magnet supply chain.
  • Reduce the environmental impacts of all processes by recycling magnets, limiting manufacturing waste, recycling rare metals, and eco-designing electric machines for easy dismantling.

CEA-Liten will be tasked with increasing the current capacities of the pilot line at the Powder Metallurgy Platform to 4 tons and bringing the technologies needed to reduce or replace critical raw materials to maturity. This will include solutions to: 

Use critical raw materials more efficiently. 

  • Reduce rare metal content without altering magnet performance by utilizing powder-to-powder blends to enrich grain boundaries with heavy rare earth elements (HREEs). 
  • Use cerium, an abundant rare metal ten times cheaper than neodymium, as an alternative material.

Optimize battery formation processes to boost material yields. 

  • Manufacture magnets to near net shape (NNS) using powder injection molding, a technique that can reduce post-processing (machining), which is responsible for 20% to 30% of material wastage. 

Follow circular economy principles:

  • Sort spent magnets upline from the recycling process with a new in-line laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) inspection method developed by CEA-DES. 
  • Recycle spent sintered magnets via an innovative powder process to enable the reuse of magnets rich in critical metals. 
  • Support eco-design for electric machines that are more efficient and easier to dismantle.

This project was financed by the French government under the economic stimulus instrument "France Relance"

Financé par

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