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Low-Energy Magnesium Recycling


Ultra-Low Energy Magnesium Recycling for New Light-Weight Vehicles

ARPA-E Award: 
Natick, MA
Project Term: 
02/05/2016 to 05/19/2017
Project Status: 
Technical Categories: 
Critical Need: 
Light-weighting vehicles is an effective way to improve vehicular fuel economy, thereby reducing U.S. oil consumption and related greenhouse gas emissions. Magnesium is the lowest density structural metal, and its low solidification shrinkage allows for die casting in complex shapes, making it ideal for vehicles. However, the primary magnesium production methods used are energy-intensive, costly and emit large amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2). Despite the expense and energy-inputs required to make magnesium metal from ore, less than 30% of post-consumer magnesium is recycled. Increased recycling of scrap magnesium could decrease scrap metal waste, primary energy use for magnesium production, and greenhouse gas emissions, and lower the cost of using light-weight materials in vehicles.
Project Innovation + Advantages: 
INFINIUM will convert low-grade magnesium scrap into material of sufficient purity for motor vehicle components by a novel high-efficiency process using less than 1 kWh/kg magnesium product. Other magnesium purification technologies such as distillation and electrorefining use 5-10 kWh/kg, and primary production uses 40-100 kWh/kg. This is also a high-speed continuous process, with much lower labor and capital costs than other batch purification technologies. This technology could enable cost-effective recycling of magnesium, converting low-grade scrap metal into high-purity magnesium at low cost and significantly lower energy consumption, and could also enable new classes of primary production technology.
Potential Impact: 
If successful, INFINIUM's recycling process could reduce the amount of energy needed to produce magnesium by 70-99%.
The magnesium produced will be used for lightweight vehicles, which will enable better fuel economy and will therefore help decrease demand for foreign sources of fuel.
This technology will efficiently recycle magnesium, helping to save both magnesium and energy resources.
Magnesium will be produced at lower cost, thus developing a magnesium recycling industry in the U.S.
ARPA-E Program Director: 
Dr. Patrick McGrath
Project Contact: 
Dr. Adam Powell
Release Date: