Students Invent Way to Reclaim Rare Earth Elements from Electronics

June 16, 2014 By Linda Hardesty

energy manage winnersThe student startup, REEcycle, from the University of Houston swept this year’s National Clean Energy Business Plan Competition, taking home all three awards for its innovative method of reclaiming rare earth elements from magnets in electronics.

Rare earth elements are critical to manufacturing clean energy technologies, including wind turbines, energy-efficient lights, thin-film solar cells and motors and batteries for electric vehicles. The company acquires used electronics from recyclers and extracts rare earth elements using a patented solvent combined with low temperatures.

The National Clean Energy Business Plan Competition, now in its third year, is a student competition for university teams across the country to create new businesses to commercialize promising energy technologies developed at US universities and the Energy Department’s National Labs.

As the winner of the competition, REEcycle will receive technical, legal and other assistance from competition sponsors to help grow their business and commercialize their clean energy technology. The team also won the People’s Choice Award, which was decided by a public vote on, and the Audience Investor Choice Award, a new award this year that was determined through live audience participation.

The other five finalists included teams from Georgia Institute of Technology, Michigan State University, Ohio State University, University of Colorado Boulder and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Photo courtesy of Ken Shipp, Energy Department.

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