Honda to recycle rare earths to be green

By Yuri Kageyama

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Good we need to recycle earths because they are very rare. Wait, I thought we only had one?

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GenConsensusJun. 20, 2012 - 04:02PM JST:

Good we need to recycle earths because they are very rare. Wait, I thought we only had one?

Actually 17 of them, and not all that rare actually. Rare-earths ore is less common though, and 30% sits under China, but due to illegal practices, they account for 97% of all mined ore.

I can understand their need to spin it to the "ecological" side, but in fact is has everything to do with economy rather than ecology. China recently announced their counter claim to ITC, saying that they are justified in more or less cutting off everyone from the ore. Honda, Toshiba, and others have been researching this for a few years now, but because of a materials engineering issue that arises when these metals are no longer freshly available.

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Other countries besides China have their own supplies in the ground.

The stuff is only "rare" because the plants for processing the ore and extracting them would take years to build and it's kind of a dirty industry, not exactly welcome in the Western world, hence for the Chinese monopoly.

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Somebody from "high place" warned that J-gov is going to accelerate their project "Messing up relations with China" and therefore effectively cutting off supplies?

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Recycling is far far better than mining more and causing environmental catastrophes. We have to start somewhere, and what not better than an automobile manufacturer whose principles are for the betterment of society while knowing the exact processes to undo what they've developed. Perhaps they can't re-use it for the same purpose, but at least it's not sitting in a dump site laying to waste. Eventually these rare earth metals will be increasingly mined in other parts of the world including the US, Vietnam, afghanistan or perhaps the sea bed. Advancing recycling processes across the world would greatly reduce the need to, though every nation with ore deposits and strains will likely mine and exploit it for the sake of its economy while balancing recycling efforts and preserving reserves for future generations. Humans need to be responsible for their own sake.

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I thought Japanese researchers had discovered rare earths in ocean sediments thus making it no longer a Chinese monopoly. If Japan has the technology to recycle as well that will improve the market as that saves the cashola of finding it and mining it and refining it. That's a colossal amount of energy saved

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Toyota Prius is an awesome car. Save alot of money driving that.

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"to be green"? It is too little too late for that when Japan has now polluted the Earth with radioactive contaminants.

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Fuel cells are powered by the energy created when hydrogen combines with oxygen to produce water. They are still too expensive for commercial use and remain experimental. This is the Way walk there, on this path. Search and you will find. Now is the time for this technology. Japan should capitalize on this now before spending any yen on Nuclear Recovery. Honda could very well lead the way, with the first hydrogen generator that powers homes and recharges hybrid cars.

Hydrogen fuel is an eco-friendly fuel which uses electrochemical cells, or combustion in internal engines, to power vehicles and electric devices. It is also used in the propulsion of spacecraft and can potentially be mass produced and commercialized for passenger vehicles and aircraft. Because pure hydrogen does not occur naturally, it takes energy to manufacture it. There are different ways to manufacture it, such as, electrolysis and steam-methane reforming process. Get rid of Nuclear Power Plants. And really go "Green"! I love the earth, I abhor nuclear accidents, and we have had way to many of them. Think about it!

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IMHO, hydrogen is not the best idea in the long term. It can work in some cases, but not as a universal fuel for everything.

One issue is its energy density and storage volume needs, compressing it will waste energy, and two is that it has a way of escaping even a sealed glass vial. The atoms are that small.

The Zeppelin, which exploded and burned in a spectacular way, was filled with hydrogen by the way. It's colorless, odorless and improper handling can result in accidents. You can add the "rotten egg smell" to it that is normally added to cooking gas, but AFAIK sulfur from it can degrade fuel cell performance over time.

There isn't that much need for a clunky technology like this, even if it is carbon neutral, when escaped methane is much more of a greenhouse gas than CO2. If you want clean, smokeless combustion, there is always the platinum group catalyst, and even catalytic fuel cells that can be designed for a wide variety of fuels :)

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zichiJun. 21, 2012 - 07:08AM JST :

Mobile phones are another gold mine of recycled materials, even gold. How much gold in a million phones?

Problem with gold recycling is that it requires strong acids (usually nitric acid when with silicon, 95% sulfuric acid in metal plating) and arsenic, as well as tons of chips and boards to recover a few grams of gold.

Rare earth's recycling also requires some nasty stuff, but at least yield rates are better thanks to the ability to dismantle to the lowest common denominator (usually motor stator).

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zichiJun. 21, 2012 - 11:18PM JST:

There are several companies in Japan recycling mobile phone which contain many important metals and others.

Yes, but these companies draw parts from just about every electronics maker though, it is not something a company even as large as Honda can do economically. Rare earths on the other hand, is quite easy for any major corporation, and why Honda has finally joined the long list of sempais.

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