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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/Y53058X/1
Title: RECREATE (REcycling CRitical Elements in Advanced Technologies for the Environment)
Principal Investigator: Walton, Professor A
Other Investigators:
Anderson, Professor PA Slater, Professor P Leeke, Professor GA
Nefti-Meziani, Prof.OBE S Cavoski, Professor A Harper, Dr G D J
Brown, Professor D Kendrick, Professor E Abbott, Professor A
Ryder, Professor KS Lee, Professor RG Sheridan, Dr R S
Stolkin, Professor R Horsfall, Professor L
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Advanced Alloy Services Beta Technology Ltd British Standards Institution BSI
Calpac Resources Limited Centre for Process Innovation CPI (UK) Critical Minerals Association
Dyson Technology Echion Technologies EMR
Intelligent Lifecycle Solutions Limited Johnson Matthey Minviro
Mkango Resources Ltd P-Block Rolls-Royce Plc (UK)
SF Xray Siemens The Manufacturing Technology Centre Ltd
Tyseley Energy Park Limited University of Technology Sydney
Department: Metallurgy and Materials
Organisation: University of Birmingham
Scheme: Standard Research TFS
Starts: 01 April 2024 Ends: 31 March 2029 Value (£): 6,430,850
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Manufacturing Machine & Plant
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:  
Summary on Grant Application Form
Technology critical metals (TCMs) are pivotal to achieving Net Zero goals. These metals include for example lithium, cobalt, rare earths and platinum group metals. TCMs are deemed to be "critical" because they are economically important but at risk of short supply. The UK Government's Net Zero Strategy: "Build Back Greener" (2021) highlights the supply of these materials as a key challenge for the UK's energy transition and the need for a circular economy in these materials. They are used in wind-power, EV motors and batteries, LEDs, solar-cells and the hydrogen economy.

The Government's (2022) Critical Minerals Strategy, "Resilience for the Future", emphasises the importance of these materials and the global supply-chain pressures. The UK's first critical mineral list identified 18 elements as TCMs (British Geological Survey, 2022).

Currently, recycling rates for TCMs are very low, for example < 5% for neodymium , used in rare earth magnets ("Critical Raw Materials Resilience" EU report). There are a number of reasons for this, including a lack of specific incentives or legislation, current product designs often impede separation, in some applications there is a very low concentration of the critical material, often the value chains are fragmented, and current recycling processes, designed for bulk metals, are rather crude resulting in the finely distributed TCMs being lost in a linear economy.

The overarching aim of RECREATE is to develop a circular economy for TCMs, keeping the materials or components in the highest value form with the lowest environmental footprint. The project brings together three of the leading research institutes in the UK (Universities of Birmingham, Leicester and Edinburgh) who each specialise in different technologies for the extraction and re-use or recycling of TCMs. The project includes leading industrial and public-sector players and policy makers, all involved in the drive to create a circular economy for critical materials in the UK. The research is informed by a system-wide perspective derived from a deep understanding of the industrial challenges for recycling of these materials, and of the governance structures that drive a circular economy. This project will undertake low TRL transformative research to generate radical improvements in automated sorting, "short loop" recycling, pyrometallurgical and chemical processes with reduced environmental impact, biological processes for dilute effluents, and new materials and product-designs which make re-use or recycling easier. Ultimately the project is developing a toolbox of technologies which can sense, sort, separate and re-use or recycle a broad range of TCMs from a wide range of products. These new technologies will be benchmarked using life cycle and techno economic assessment and the legislative drivers for a circular economy will be explored.

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Organisation Website: http://www.bham.ac.uk