EU “Raw Materials Week” 2018

Following the success of the Raw Materials Week 2017, the 3rd edition of the EU “Raw Materials Week” will take place from Monday 12-11 to Friday 16-11-2018 in Brussels. It builds on a series of events organised by the European Commission addressing the latest news on raw materials in the EU. It will be a unique opportunity for the raw materials community to discuss and exchange on all relevant issues: policy, technology, international cooperation, framework conditions, knowledge base etc.


The 6th High Level Conference of the European Innovation Partnership on Raw Materials is the main event of the week, taking place on 14 November 2018. The main topic of the conference is “Raw materials for low carbon and circular economy”, covering relevant issues including battery value chain, cascading of woody biomass, secondary raw materials for energy-intensive industries. On 12 November a dedicated event  will take place, focusing on Critical Raw Materials. This events includes EU ETN DEMETER, NEMO and CROCODILE as co-organisers. For more information and registration please follow this link:

Background on EC and Raw Materials

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CRM List EC 2017 (credits image: redrawn by Paul McGuiness)

To address the growing Critical Raw Materials (CRM) concerns, the European Commission launched the European Raw Materials Initiative in 2008. In 2011 the Commission adopted a strategy document which proposes tailored measures to secure and improve access to raw materials for the EU. This strategy is based on a three-pillar approach: (1) fair and sustainable supply of raw materials from international markets, (2) fostering sustainable supply within the EU, (3)  boosting resource efficiency and promoting recycling. Likewise, in 2012-2013 the Commission launched a call for a new EIT KIC in the field of Raw Materials, which eventually led to the erection of EIT RawMaterials. This KIC is the largest and strongest consortium in the raw materials sector worldwide. Its vision is to develop raw materials into a major strength for Europe, while its mission is to boost competitiveness, growth and attractiveness of the European raw materials sector via radical innovation, new educational approaches and guided entrepreneurship. The various EU initiatives mentioned above are all part of the Europe 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. They are linked to the “Innovation Union” flagship initiative, which was proposed by the Commission in 2010. This global strategy acknowledges the key importance of smart innovation, covering innovation along the entire supply chain as well as the demand side, including in particular extraction, processing and recycling steps. Likewise, issues such as eco-design, substitution and resource efficiency are to be integrated, as is the case in the EIT RawMaterials strategy.

Gwen Bailey wins 2018 MSCA award for science dissemination

What is the place of the scientist on the big screen? Well, Gwendolyn Bailey, Early Stage Researcher (ESR) at KU Leuven in the EU MSCA-ETN DEMETER project consistently endeavours to communicate science to a broad audience, fow which she has now received the 2018 MSCA award. In addition to her community outreach, Gwendolyn is performing environmental and economic assessments within the DEMETER project. Gwendolyn is an environmentalist from Texas, a steadfastly Republican and climate-change-denying state, thus, she knows better than anyone the challenge of communicating environmental science to a non-scientific community. Thus, she has grown accustomed to speaking about her field, environmentally sustainable materials, and she believes public engagement is necessary to make her work as an environmental scientist accessible. (Leuven, 3/10/2018)

Bill Nye the Science Girl

TBill Nyehis year, Gwendolyn has been honoured with this award on behalf of the DEMETER project’s remarkable collaboration on the DEMETER promotional video. The MSCA award of 2018, which normally requires applicants to submit an essay on detailing their contributions to society, was different this year. This year, researchers were required to send in selfies/videos on the following 3 categories: 1. outreach of a MSCA project; 2. meeting societal challenges and; 3. bridging career paths. The shortlisted videos were shown at the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions beyond 2020 conference and the people’s choice was selected. At the dinner, Gwendolyn was presented the award for the MSCA project outreach.

Ulrike Guerot, Professor of European Policy and Study of Democracy at Danube University Krems was one of the keynote speakers at the conference and her speech can be summarised into two words: arresting and powerful. She touched on the idea of academic excellence and questions whether the aim to instutionalise excellence is over-rated. She states: “Poltics is about choice and not evidence.” She adds “moving things is more important than simply being ‘excellent’.” In addition, she notes that newspaper articles or popular books don’t fit into the criteria for academic promotion… presumably neither would a 2 minute clip on Vimeo. Staying behind walls of dark math, and writing articles that few will read will do nothing to spread real world influence. The work of a scientist is not just to fiddle with a microscope in a lab, but to talk about scientifically sound ideas – in lectures, course discussions, scientific conferences and outreach opportunities such as making a video.

MSCA Award

The Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions Awards identify the most promising researchers among those funded so far under the MSCA Programme. The Austrian Ministry was totally right when they profiled Gwendolyn to be one of the most promising researchers in terms of outreach. Since starting her PhD, Gwendolyn has been fascinated with trying to stylistically unpack — in plain language – the many underlying geopolitical, technical, economic and environmental issues when trying to recycle magnets from electric vehicles. Gwendolyn enjoys conveying the main message of the DEMETER project to mass audiences.

DEMETER as a digestible project

DEMETER and EVsOne of the reasons the DEMETER project video is such a success is the production value. The colleagues at Storyrunner did an excellent job in realising a high quality work, complete with easy to interpret graphics and animations. Secondly, the video involves electric mobility, which is a subject that touches the daily life of nearly everyone. Moreover, most people believe that electric vehicles are sustainable forms of transport but our video reveals that this is not entirely the case.

There are a couple of reasons for this: one being that there is not yet a procedure for recycling electric vehicles. Another is that electricity used to power electric vehicles is often coming from ‘dirty’ sources such as fossil fuels; therefore, the environmental burden caused by carbon emissions from vehicles are being shifted. A more detailed analysis can be read in the recently published DEMETER Policy Brief “Why the EV industry must work together with REE producers”, authored by Gwendolyn Bailey and Karel Van Acker (both KU Leuven).

After nearly 3 years of research, the solutions to some of these sustainability problems are unfolding and you can see the results of our project in the sequel (part 2) of our DEMETER video! Stay tuned!

Watch the DEMETER (part 1) video

The video would have not been possible without the help of ESR3 (Martina Orefice) who is also featured and the production staff at Storyrunner ( You can watch the winning video here:  The DEMETER project has received funding from the European Union’s EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation Horizon 2020 under Grant Agreement No 674973.

DEMETER video winning the MSCA award of 2018

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Prof. Binnemans wins LeCoq de Boisbaudran award at ICfE-10

Prof. Koen Binnemans (SIM² KU Leuven & Solvomet) was recently given the LeCoq de Boisbaudran award for his “outstanding and long-lasting contribution” in the field of rare earth recycling. The prize was awarded during the tenth International Conference on f-Elements (ICfE-10) that took place on September 3–6, 2018 at the EPFL campus in Lausanne, Switzerland. (SR, Leuven, 1709/2018)

The tenth International Conference on f-Elements, ICfE-10, took place on September 3–6, 2018 at the EPFL campus in Lausanne, Switzerland. This conference focuses on all aspects of rare earths and actinides science: from theory and coordination chemistry to recycling, criticality and applications on bioscience and medicine. Since the year 2000, this conference is also the place where the winner of the LeCoq de Boisbaudran award is announced. This award has been given to scientists who have made “an outstanding and long-lasting contribution to the science and/or technology of the f-elements”.


This year, Professor Koen Binnemans, from KU Leuven in Belgium, has been honored with this award for his remarkable work on rare-earth recycling and solvometallurgy. The award of 2018, which is bestowed triennially, was sponsored by Qiandong Rare Earth Group Co., Ltd, Ganzhou P.R. China. The opening lecture “Solvometallurgy for Rare Earths” was one of the highlights of the programme, on which Professor Binnemans presented the concept of solvometallurgy and inspiring examples of its uses in the recycling of rare earths from different end-of-life products.

ERES Junior Award

18 years ago, during the ICfE conference in Madrid, Professor Binnemans was awarded with the ERES Junior Award for his outstanding achievements in research during his short career. Professor Jean-Claude Bßnzli was totally right when he profiled Professor Binnemans to be one of the leading rare earth coordination chemists in the 21st century [1].  In the same way as LeCoq de Boisbaudran was passionate about rare earths, Professor Binnemans has been fascinated with rare earths for more than 20 years and has devoted most of his career to their understanding. From fundamental studies in his early years of research to applicable and innovative ways to recover them in the latest years, Professor Binnemans continues expanding the borders of what is chemically possible.

Binnemans bio

Photo BinnemansProfessor Binnemans is an inorganic chemist, specialised in solvometallurgy and hydrometallurgy. He has developed a core expertise in critical metals and solvent extraction. He is author of 440 papers with a h-index = 63 and more than 18,000 citations. He is an ERC Advanced Grant holder (SOLCRIMET), as well as, the general coordinator of MSCA-ETN REDMUD and DEMETER and partner in the Horizon2020 projects METGROW+, PLATIRUS, NEMO and CROCODILE. Within his academic career, he has been the supervisor of 47 finished PhD theses and he is also the main responsible of the research line Critical Metals in SIM2 KU Leuven. Prof. Binnemans is co-founder of the SOLVOMET industrial service center for solvometallurgy and he is an elected member of the Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Science and the Arts.


[1] J.-C. Bunzli, Journal of Alloys and Compounds 323–324 (2001) 1–3. Download here

Lecture Binnemans

Download Lecture Koen Binnemans “Solvometallurgy for Rare Earths” here

Why the EV industry must work together with REE producers

In a new ETN DEMETER Policy Brief, the authors Gwendolyn Bailey and Karel Van Acker (SIM² KU Leuven) motivate why the time has come for the electric-vehicle industry (EV industry) to start working together with the producers of rare earths (REEs). The goal of this Policy Brief is to communicate the specific needs identified by the sustainability assessment for permanent magnet motors use in (Hybrid) Electric Vehicles ((H)EVs) to better inform and support decision-making. (Leuven, 10-9-2018)


Image cover DEMETER Policy Brief on EV industryInformation regarding sustainability is key for decision makers. This also holds true for the field of rare-earth permanent-magnet (PM) motors, for which the sustainability (economic, environment and social) is unfortunately not well understood and could become a show-stopper for future developments. The goal of this Policy Brief is to communicate the specific needs identified by the sustainability assessment for PM motors to better inform and support decision-making. While literature reviews are useful and informative, being informed is not enough and actions need to be taken. Therefore, we are strongly recommending a greater, synergistic collaboration among industry suppliers and buyers of the two industries: the rare-earth element producers and the hybrid/electric-vehicle (H)EV makers.

The take home messages of this DEMETER Policy Brief are:

  • A collaboration and synergy between the electric-vehicle (EV) industry and the rare-earth permanent-magnet (REE PM) motor industry is the key to a sustainable supply of REE materials. This must be underpinned by materials passports.
  • The majority of the current EV industry does not take into account REE end-of-life treatment or disposal, which hinders optimal recovery.
  • Some EV companies, such as Tesla, have shown signs of hesitating to engage with the REE supply chain and have purposely designed their motors without REE permanent magnets…but this is changing!
  • Exporting environmental pollution is both inherently unsustainable and unethical.

Key info DEMETER Policy Brief

  • Download DEMETER Policy Brief Sep 2018 here
  • Authors: Gwendolyn Bailey and Karel Van Acker (KU Leuven)
  • Design: Sciencewriter (si)
  • Disclaimer: the views expressed in this article are the private views of the author and may not, under any circumstances, be interpreted as stating an official position of ETN REDMUD or SIM² KU Leuven.

Closing DEMETER Symposium “Rare-earth permanent magnet motors and the e-mobility revolution”

This closing Symposium will be held in Leuven from 5 to 7 of February 2019 in Leuven, Belgium. It will feature a number of established speakers in the field of rare earths, permanent magnets and HEVs. The Symposium is co-organised by GloREIA. For more information follow this link:

Banner Closing DEMETER Symposium

Acknowledgements: This project has received funding from the European Union’s EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation Horizon 2020 under Grant Agreement No 674973.

New PhD on REE recovery from bauxite residue

On July 2nd, 2018, Dženita Avdibegović obtained her PhD degree in Chemistry. She successfully defended her PhD thesis entitled ‘Recovery of rare earths from bauxite residue leachates by functionalised sorbents‘. (Leuven, 02/08/2018)

The research was supervised by Prof. Koen Binnemans (promotor) and Dr. Mercedes Regadio (co-promotor). Dr. Avdibegović obtained her degree in the framework of the European Training Network for Zero-Waste Valorisation of Bauxite Residue (REDMUD). A list of the peer-reviewed papers published in the framework of her PhD can be found below. The full text of the thesis will become available once all research results have been officially published in the peer-reviewed literature. Dr. Avdibegović will now continue her research career as a postdoc in the group of Prof. Koen Binnemans, where she will work on the separation of REE ions by magneto-chromatography.


Bauxite residue, better known as red mud, is a waste product of the alumina industry, but with many unexploited values. The estimated inventory of bauxite residue in operating and closed alumina refineries reaches the value of several billion of tonnes. Stockpiling of huge amounts of residue can create environmental problems. Bauxite residue comprises iron, aluminium, titanium, sodium and even more interestingly, valuable rare-earth elements (REEs). Although a lot of research has been done on bauxite residue valorisation, to date there are no large-scale applications of bauxite residue yet. The REEs, and scandium in particular, are generally more enriched in residues originating from karst bauxites. Interestingly, bauxites found in the southern region of Europe belong to the group of karst bauxites. Europe currently has no operating REE mine, although these elements are getting an increasing role as materials for the transition to cleaner energy and the production of high-tech devices.

In this PhD thesis sorbents were synthesised and investigated for the recovery of REEs from bauxite residue leachates. The leachates can be prepared by direct leaching of bauxite residue with mineral acids, or as a processing step after recovery of other valuable metals. The leachates typically comprise low concentrations of REEs, whereas base elements like iron or aluminium are concentrated. Liquid-solid extraction is a suitable method for recovery of elements from dilute streams. This process requires sorbents selective for elements of interest. Supported ionic liquid phases (SILPs) and crystalline zirconium-phosphate (ι-ZrP) were synthesised, characterised and examined for the REEs recovery and separation from other element present in bauxite residue leachates. Moreover, hybrid materials prepared by grafting of short n-alkyl chains (ethyl, n-propyl and n-butyl) to titanium(IV) phosphate functionalised mesoporous MCM-41 silica were tested for mutual separation of REEs.

Publications by Dženita Avdibegović in the framework of her PhD

  1. Avdibegović D., Regadío M., Binnemans K. (2018). Efficient separation of rare earths recovered by a supported ionic liquid from bauxite residue leachate, RSC Advances, 8, 11886–11893.
  2. Avdibegović , Regadío M., Rivera R.M., Onoughene G., Van Gerven T., Binnemans K., Purification of low concentration of rare earths from high concentration impurities in leach liquor of bauxite residue slag by a supported ionic liquid phase. In: Y. Pontikes (ed) Proceedings of the 2nd International Bauxite Residue Valorisation and Best Practices Conference. 7-10 May 2018, Athens, Greece, 381-386.
  3. Avdibegović D., Regadío M., Binnemans K. (2017). Recovery of scandium(III) from diluted aqueous solutions by a supported ionic liquid phase (SILP). RSC Advances, 7, 49664-49674.
  4. Zhang W., Avdibegović, D., Koivula R., Hatanpaa T., Hietala S., Regadío M., Binnemans K., Harjula R. (2017). Titanium alkylphosphate functionalised mesoporous silica for enhanced uptake of rare-earth ions. Journal of Materials Chemistry A, 5(45), 23805-23814. Joint first author with Wenzhong Zhang.
  5. Avdibegović, D., Yagmurlu, B., Dittrich, C., Regadío, M., Friedrich, B., Binnemans, B., Combined multi-step precipitation and supported ionic liquid phase chromatography for the separation of rare earths from the base elements in bauxite residue leachates. Manuscript under revision. Joint first author with Bengi Yagmurlu.
  6. Avdibegović, D., Zhang, W., Xu, J., Regadío, M., Koivula, R., Binnemans, K. Selective ion-exchange separation of Sc(III) over Fe(III) by crystalline α-zirconium phosphate platelets from bauxite residue leachates. Manuscript under preparation. Joint first author with Wenzhong Zhang.