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Thomas Maani

Purdue University, PhD
EREF Scholar 2022 

Value Recovery and Closed Loop Recycling of Rare Earth Permanent Magnets from End-of-Life Electric Vehicles Project Description:
Owing to a growing interest in decarbonization and the need for energy security, there is increasing global demand for clean energy technologies such as electric vehicles (EVs). As a result, the number of EVs has been exponentially increasing globally and is expected to surpass 10 million in 2022. This worldwide proliferation in EVs will eventually lead to a high demand for raw materials for these technologies, as well as a high quantity of EVs, and EV components such as batteries and motors, reaching their endoflife (EoL). The motors/generators needed for these technologies are reliant on powerful rare earth permanent magnets (REPMs) such as Neodymium-Iron-Boron (NdFeB) magnets.  

Neodymium has been identified as a critical material and is subject to supply chain risks since it is mainly obtained from nondomestic sources. Currently, less than one percent of REPMs are recovered from EOL products. Thus, actions favoring the recovery of motors/REPMs create an opportunity for research 

The overarching objective of Maani’s research is to develop decision support tools and identify technologies that will help evaluate and pursue EoL value recovery and closed loop recycling/reuse strategies for REPMs/motors in EVs. Circularizing these REPMs through reuse, remanufacturing, and recycling will alleviate the issue of supply risks while simultaneously mitigating the solid waste issues that could arise from these EoL EVs. This research employs methodologies such as material flow analysis, technoeconomic assessment and life cycle assessment.  

Thomas received his bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Dar es Salaam, in 2016, and master’s degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering from the University of Toledo in 2019. His master’s thesis estimated the environmental impacts associated with the recycling of solar photovoltaic panels. During his master’s studies, he interned with the city of Toledo on a project where his role was to characterize and assess the impact of mass education on sorting of wastes generated in homes for recycling. Thomas is currently a PhD student in Environmental and Ecological Engineering at Purdue University. His research explores the material flows, environmental impacts and economics involved in circularizing electric vehicle components. During his PhD studies, he has had the opportunity to intern at the Department of Energys Argonne National Laboratory where he was involved in a project whose goal was to expand Argonne’s GREET model.