Solvay's Rare Earth Recycling Technology Receives ICIS Award

22.10.2012 -

Solvay announced today that its Rare Earths Global Business Unit has received the ICIS Award 2012 for Best Innovation for Sustainability.

The Award acknowledges the efforts for developing and implementing a distinctive recycling technology for the six rare earths contained in the fluorescent powders of used low-energy light bulbs. After recycling and reformulating the rare earths are returned to the low-energy light bulbs producers and reused in the new bulbs, making the life-cycle of these energy savers even more sustainable.

The technology was developed by a team managed by Nicolas Barthel, Head of the R&D Lab and Pilots at the Rare Earths Plant in La Rochelle, Jean-Jacques Braconnier, R&D Engineer for Industrial Process Development, Alain Rollat, Technology Development Manager, and Frederic Carencotte, Industrial Director of the Rare Earths Business Unit. They will receive the Award on December 7th in London.

Recycling units are already operational in two plants in France, Saint-Fons (Rhone-Alpes) and La Rochelle (Charente Maritime). They recycle the six different rare earths - lanthanum, cerium, terbium, yttrium, europium and gadolinium - contained in the fluorescent powders while preserving all their functional properties. The fluorescent powders that are treated in Saint-Fons are delivered by specialized companies that shred used low-energy light bulbs and separate the components. The plant in Saint-Fons extracts the rare earth concentrate after which the extracted powder is sent for separation to the La Rochelle plant, which has a unique expertise in separation technology unparalleled in Europe. The six rare earths are then reformulated by Solvay into fluorescent precursors to be reused in the manufacture of new lamps.