Researchers to demonstrate technical feasibility, proof-of-concept of scale-up of acid-free recycling method to reclaim rare earth metals from electronic waste

AMES, Iowa (June 26, 2020) – The Iowa State University Startup Factory today announced that cohort eight team member TdVib, LLC has been awarded a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Phase I Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grant for $200,000 from the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) to conduct research and development (R&D) work on an innovative recycling method to reclaim rare earth metals from electronic waste.

The innovation will focus on demonstrating the feasibility and proof-of-concept for commercially viable and environment-friendly approaches for reclaiming rare earth elements and cobalt from magnets in different types of electronic wastes generated in the United States.

The grant will support research headed by TdVib Co-founders, President and CEO Dan Bina and Vice President of Operations Scott Roberts in conjunction with Ames Laboratory, a DOE National Laboratory operated by and located on the Iowa State University campus in Ames, Iowa.

“The U.S. depends on foreign sources for rare earth elements used in advanced technologies,” Bina said. “The use of rare earth elements is vital for modern life, but the end products are rarely recycled. TdVib’s proposed recycling method will make possible the reclamation of a substantial amount of these rare earth metals by providing a more sustainable and economically feasible solution to recycling these materials.”

Critical materials are crucial components in permanent magnets, electric vehicles, smartphones, and more Bina said. “We aim to address the consumption demand for these critical materials by increasing their recovery rate, and, by doing so with zero environmental impact.”

Bina explained current recycling methods use an acid-based process that is the same as what is used to extract rare earths from mined materials. He said the acid-based process is a very environmentally damaging technique, even though its use is widespread. “It’s the technique being used in China and other overseas countries,” he said.

He added, the cost to mitigate this acid-based process does not allow for economical applications from U.S. sources which are subject to stringent environmental regulations.

“We believe TdVib’s innovative technology can change the commercial landscape for the U.S. rare earth metals recycling industry,” Bina said. “This new process checks all the boxes — it enables reclamation of the critical materials we use in our daily lives, is acid-free and produces no toxic or environmental harmful by-products while being economically viable.”

TdVib is a member of the Iowa State University Startup Factory’s eighth cohort. The Startup Factory is a 52-week intensive program at the Iowa State University Research Park that provides an avenue for students, faculty, staff, and community members to create technology-based, platform businesses.

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 About TdVib
TdVib designs and manufactures technology-driven, high-value systems based on electromagnetics; including magnetostrictive smart materials Terfenol-D and Galfenol. For more information on TdVib, call toll-free 800-327-7291 or visit tdvib.com.

About ISU Startup Factory
The Iowa State University (ISU) Startup Factory is a 52-week intensive program housed at the ISU Research Park (ISURP). Entrepreneurs in the Startup Factory receive formal training, resources, and access to a network of business mentors, advisors, counselors, and investors in two 26-week blocks: the first a formal curriculum centered on business validation, and the second, customized to their individual business needs. For more information on the ISU Startup Factory program, call 515-294-7444 or visit isustartupfactory.org.

 Contact:
Julie Lelonek, Iowa State University Startup Factory Communications
515-294-1562, jlelonek@iastate.edu

 Iowa State University
Office of Economic Development and Industry Relations
1805 Collaboration Place
Ames, IA  50010

Information on the DOE SBIR and STTR programs is available on the Office of Science SBIR website.
Additional information can be found on the EERE SBIR/STTR 
website.

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