Accelerating the commercialization of energy-saving rare metal refining technology with microwave heating - National Institutes for Quantum Science and Technology and Microwave Chemical Co., Ltd. signed on joint research and development agreement for the technology demonstration
National Institutes for Quantum Science and Technology
Microwave Chemical Co., Ltd.
Summary of this announcement
- National Institutes for Quantum Science and Technology (QST) and Microwave Chemical Co., Ltd. (MWCC) signed on a joint research and development agreement to carry out a new technology demonstration to refine rare metals including beryllium and lithium by combining chemical treatment and microwave heating.
- During the demonstration, microwave heating's scalability and adaptability to various metals and minerals for a commercial plant design will be examined.
- By transferring the technology to other industries targeting energy saving and reducing CO2 emissions in their heat-based manufacturing processes, we expect to help them to achieve carbon neutrality and contribute to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
On December 22, 2021, Rokkasho Fusion Institutes, Fusion Energy Directorate,
National Institutes for Quantum Science and Technology (“QST”, President: Toshio Hirano) Quantum
Energy Department, and Microwave Chemical Co., Ltd. (“MWCC”, CEO: Iwao Yoshino) signed on a
joint research and development agreement to carry out a new technology demonstration to refine
rare metals by combining chemical treatment and microwave heating.
Both parties will carry out a demonstration to examine microwave heating's scalability, which becomes more challenging as the volume of ore increases.
The demonstration would also study the adaptability of microwave to the melting processes of various ores and nodules which include rare metals such as beryllium and lithium. These are imperative to determine a commercial plant design. Through this demonstration, both parties will also transfer QST's refining technology for poorly-soluble beryllium ores to various industries, which reduce energy consumption and CO2 emission in their thermal manufacturing process.
Dr. Masaru Nakamichi, Group Leader at QST, et al., were the world-first to demonstrate the successful melting and refining of poorly-soluble beryllium ores at the temperatures of 250oC and lower by combining chemical treatment and microwave heating. Conventional understanding is that temperatures of 2,000oC are required for melting and refining beryllium ores.
MWCC has developed its own technology to take advantage of the energy saving, highly efficient, and compact advantages of microwave technology and has overcome challenges where commercialization was hindered due to the requirement for large-scale facilities. MWCC's own technology has brought a revolutionary change to the conventional manufacturing process in the chemical industry, which for the last 100 years has relied on heat and pressure. MWCC has proved the feasibility of the technology in its demonstration plants.
QST and MWCC share the same objective to shift from a manufacturing process based on heating, which consumes vast amounts of energy and emits CO2, and achieve carbon neutrality by utilizing both parties' technologies and know-how. Therefore, QST and MWCC reached a joint research and development agreement to carry out a joint demonstration to realize a melting and refining process of poorly-soluble ores with microwave heating and develop engineering data for a commercial plant design, which is crucial to transfer the technology to industry.
This technology is expected to be deployed to mining, manufacturing, and recycling industries, as the technology can be applied to compounds such as ceramics and recover rare metals in such compounds.
QST and MWCC will contribute to carbon neutrality through the commercialization of this new refining technology.
Microwave Chemical Co., Ltd.
Established in 2007, Microwave Chemical is technology-based startup which is
enhancing and improving conventional manufacturing processes by utilizing microwave technology
to develop new materials, which are difficult to produce with conventional manufacturing
methods. The technology is applicable to a wide range of regions such as pharmaceuticals,
electronic materials, food and fuel, and the company has ongoing collaborative R&D and
commercialization projects with domestic and foreign companies.
For realizing carbon neutrality of the industrial sector by 2050 through the expansion of the manufacturing processes using microwaves, Microwave Chemical is developing a concept named “C NEUTRALTM 2050 design”.