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Electrochemical Magnesium Extraction from Scrap

Phinix
Production of Primary Quality Magnesium and Al-Mg Alloys from Secondary Aluminum Scraps
Program: 
ARPA-E Award: 
$758,649
Location: 
Lexington, KY
Project Term: 
12/03/2013 to 03/01/2015
Project Status: 
ALUMNI
Technical Categories: 
Critical Need: 
Recycling light metals such as aluminum, titanium, and magnesium from scrap is primarily done manually, making it an inefficient and expensive process. Existing automated technologies are unable to distinguish different types of alloys. Innovation in light metal recycling is crucial because light metals can be used to reduce the weight of cars and aircraft, which could significantly reduce both energy use and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from transportation. Cost-effective scrap recycling could dramatically reduce the cost of light-weight metals, such as those used for aircraft construction and vehicle light-weighting.
Project Innovation + Advantages: 
Phinix is developing a specialized cell that recovers high-quality magnesium from aluminum-magnesium scrap. Current aluminum refining uses chlorination to separate aluminum from other alloys, which results in a significant amount of salt-contaminated waste. Rather than using the conventional chlorination approach, Phinix's cell relies on a three-layer electrochemical melting process that has proven successful in purifying primary aluminum. Phinix will adapt that process to purify aluminum-magnesium scrap, recovering magnesium by separating that scrap based on the different densities within its mix. Phinix's cell could offer increased flexibility in managing costs because it can handle scrap of various chemical compositions, making use of scrap that is currently in low demand. With a more efficient design, the cell can recover and reuse aluminum-magnesium scrap at low cost with minimal waste.
Potential Impact: 
If successful, Phinix's advanced, low-cost magnesium and magnesium-aluminum alloys recycling process could reduce the need for manufacturing new, expensive primary metals.
Security: 
Light-weighting vehicles to improve fuel efficiency could reduce U.S. dependence on foreign fossil fuel resources used in the transportation industry.
Environment: 
Light metal recycling could eliminate 2,000,000 tons of aluminum waste each year.
Economy: 
Recycling magnesium from scrap could reduce its cost to $2.00/kg, compared to $2.50/kg with conventional primary production methods, resulting in significant reductions in costs throughout automotive and other industries.
Contacts
ARPA-E Program Director: 
Dr. James Klausner
Project Contact: 
Dr. Subodh Das
Partners
Materials & Electrochemical Research (MER) Corporation
Release Date: 
9/19/2013