In memoriam Prof. Risto Harjula (Helsinki U.)

SIM² KU Leuven and the EU teams of the EREAN and REDMUD projects are deeply saddened to hear the news that our wonderful colleague, Prof. Risto Harjula (University of Helsinki), has passed away on September 11, 2017. We offer our sincere condolences to Risto’s family and Helsinki colleagues. For us, Risto Harjula was one of the greatest persons we have ever worked with in our EU projects. We fully agree with Risto’s colleague, Prof. Risto Koivula, that “we have to remember Risto’s joy and genuine excitement with chemistry, research and finding new things that can benefit people. For him science was not just writing papers it was making the world into a better place.”

Risto, it was an absolute pleasure working with you. We will deeply miss you.


(Peter Tom Jones, Rabab Nasser, Lucian Onisei, Yiannis Pontikes, Bart Blanpain, Karel Van Acker, Tom Van Gerven & Koen Binnemans, for SIM² KU Leuven and representing all colleagues from the EU EREAN and REDMUD projects in which we work so well with Helsinki Unversity)

SOLVOMET, a new Industrial Service Centre

SOLVOMET LOGOSIM² KU Leuven is delighted to announce that it has just launched a new Industrial Service Centre, which is focussed on developing and commercialising solvometallurgical flow sheets or key elements within larger flow sheets that combine pyro-, hydro- and solvo-parts. SOLVOMET’s mission is to support its industrial and RTD partners in the conceptual and practical development of more sustainable solvometallurgical separation processes and new mining chemicals, which are subsequently tested using state-of-the-art lab-scale and mini pilot-scale experimental facilities.

What is solvometallurgy?

Solvometallurgy is to be considered as an emerging branch of extractive metallurgy. In contrast with hydrometallurgy, solvometallurgy employs non-aqueous solutions to extract metals from ores, industrial process residues, production scrap and urban waste. In order to position this emerging branch, Prof. Koen Binnemans (holder of ERC Advanced Grant SOLCRIMET – Solvometallurgy for critical metals) and Dr. Peter Tom Jones recently authored a position (open access) paper to present the opportunities and challenges for this exciting development within the metallurgy domain (J. Sustain. Metall. (2017) 3:570–600). Download here).

SOLVOMET: goal and mission

SOLVOMET is developed as a Service Centre for its industrial partners and large RTD Centres, who are leading actors in the fields of primary mining, mining chemicals and chemical metallurgy. The Centre is set up to industrially valorise the expertise in solvometallurgy that has been and is being developed in Prof. Koen Binnemans’ Research Group (Department of Chemistry, KU Leuven, Belgium) and his associated ERC Advanced Grant SOLCRIMET project. The Centre works in synergy with the HiTemp Centre and SIM² KU Leuven, as the goal is to embed the developed chemicals and processes into zero-waste valorisation flow sheets for base and critical-metal-containing End-of-Life waste as well as low-grade primary ores, extractive waste and industrial process residues.

SOLVOMET’s mission is to support its industrial and RTD partners in the conceptual and practical development of more sustainable solvometallurgical separation processes and new mining chemicals, which are subsequently tested using state-of-the-art lab-scale and mini pilot-scale experimental facilities. The mission of the Centre also includes upscaling the processes and solutions that have been developed on a lab-scale towards a mini-pilot-scale, thus taking Technology Readiness Levels (TRL) from 3-4 to 5-6.

C3 KU Leuven SO(VO)MET project

In order to help establishing this new Industrial Service Centre, the Industrial Research Fund of KU Leuven has recently funded an internal C3 KU Leuven project: SO(VO)LMET (Solvometallurgy for base and critical metals). This project provides 350 k€ of leverage funding for mini-pilot scale investments (solvometallurgical leaching equipment) and for developing upscaling science/technology skills (for a selection of generic case-studies).

New SOLVOMET website

Since September 2017, SOLVOMET also has a brand new website, which provides in-depth information about the solvometallurgy domain (incl. review paper on the benefits of solvometallurgy), the available research facilities that are offered to the industrial/RTD partners, the top achievements in the area, the service offer and a very comprehensive resource library containing a multitude of relevant peer-reviewed publications by the SOLVOMET founders (Binnemans & Jones) and researchers.

The service offer to companies and RTD Centres ranges from (1) Targeted literature reviews; (2.) Consultancy assignments, (3) Lab-scale feasibility studies, (4) Analytical services, (5) Upscaling/mini pilot-scale tests on solvometallurgical leaching, solvent extraction etc.

More information?

If want to know more about this new Service Centre, please contact Prof. Koen Binnemans or Dr. Peter Tom Jones:


Darmstadt Symposium on critical metals (July 13)

On the 13th of July there will be a milestone Symposium on the importance of critical metals for green energy technologies. The Symposium takes place in Darmstadt, Germany. A number of keynote lectures by renowned experts, including Prof. Oliver Gutfleisch, will provide a unique update on the Great Transition towards a low-carbon circular economy.

The unsustainability of our fossil fuel based society and economy is at the beginning of the end. Today, the critical supply of primary and secondary resources directly impacts on the development and cost of advanced materials which form the basis for a number of latest green energy technologies. The efficient utilisation or substitution of strategic metals with more sustainable and earth abundant elements is the big challenge for the Great Transition. Well-known experts from academia and industry will give key-note lectures addressing the substitutionability of critical metals in the different classes of functional materials. The aim is to develop new materials and efficient energy technologies with a reduced supply risk and enhanced environmental sustainability.

The workshop is jointly organised by the DGM FachausschĂĽsse Funktionswerkstoffe and Werkstoffe der Energietechnik and the Jung-DGM Darmstadt. Co-organisers are the Fraunhofer Project Group Materials Recycling and Resource Strategies IWKS, the Hessen LOEWE Excellence Cluster RESPONSE, the TU Darmstadt Profile Area Future Energy Systems and the KIC EIT Raw Materials.

Download the full programme here

Orangerie, Darmstadt

Towards a new Rare Earth Association: GloREIA

The EIT RawMaterials has approved the GloREIA project, which stands for “Towards a Global Rare Earth Industry Association”. The funding for this EIT RawMaterials project is 300,000 EUR, pending final approval and funding decision by EIT later this year


Rare earth elements are essential for the transition towards sustainability. However, rare earths, are critical metals and only one country, China, dominates the entire supply chain with its own domestic pitfalls such as environmental pollution, illegal mining, impacting international market. As highlighted by the European Rare Earths Competency Network (ERECON), boosting supply security through enhanced cooperation among European end-users and other stakeholders should receive top priority. However, enhancing collaboration between the REE supply chain is a major challenge because unlike many other types of metals and elements, there is no REE industry association which gathers all relevant stakeholders. The reason an association like this one does not exist is not because it is not needed. On the contrary, the REE industry faces numerous obstacles such as inefficient recovery of rare earths from end users/end products (see for instance EREAN/DEMETER Policy Brief, June 2017), high environmental impact from production and processing, high volatility of the raw material prices and low competition from countries outside China. To combat these issues, GloREIA, concurrently gathers (1) key supply chain actors currently already on the global market and (2) shares and creates information which leads to an innovative REE industry of the future.


GloREIA is original because it will be the first consortium to merge the results of REE research with wider society. It is made up of an intersectoral and interdisciplinary consortium of leading EU universities, research institutes and manufacturers from the sector make up this project consortium. The project challenges include the development of a strong REE network that includes China, providing a space for research activities to be launched in industry, and strengthening the capacity to influence REE supply on a global scale. In many ways it will build upon the work of the ERECON network, previously established by the European Parliament and the European Commission


GloREIA Partnership

KU Leuven (co-ordinator), (Belgium); CML-Leiden University, (Netherlands); GEUS (Denmark) and leading industry partners (KOLEKTOR (Germany); NEO Performance Materials (Estonia); and Magneti (Slovenia))



New Policy Brief on EU Rare Earth Supply Chain

On May 28-31, 2017, more than 200 people took part in the 2nd Conference on European Rare Earth Resources, a joint organisation by two key REE projects in Europe: FP7 EURARE and H2020 MC-ITN EREAN. The venue for this event was the picturesque Greek island of Santorini. It was an intriguing conference, which offered lots of food for thought.

In order to stimulate more policy debate about the Europe’s Rare Earth Element (REE) supply, Dr. Peter Tom Jones (SIM² KU Leuven) wrote a Policy Brief for the MC-ITN EREAN and MSCA-ETN DEMETER projects. The Policy Brief covers six lessons learned:

  1. The Balance Problem is more relevant than ever;
  2. REE recycling still lurking in the shadows;
  3. Primary REE mining in Europe: the Kvjanefeld project seems to be the winner;
  4. Social license to operate is key;
  5. Beyond REEs: watch out for the new CRM figure of the EC;
  6. REE research in Europe: Quo Vadis?

Lots of food for thought… as we said! Reactions are welcome at

Dowload Policy Brief DEMETER_EREAN_”ERES 2017: Six Lessons Learned”



The European Rare Earth (Magnet) Recycling Network (EREAN) trains 15 young researchers in the science and technology of rare earths, with emphasis on the recycling of these elements from neodymium-iron-boron permanent magnets.


DEMETER is the European Training Network for the Design and Recycling of Rare-Earth Permanent Magnet Motors and Generators in Hybrid and Full Electric Vehicles. DEMETER concurrently develops (1) innovative, environmentally-friendly direct and indirect recycling strategies for the permanent magnets in the motors and generators of (H)EVs that are  currently already on the market and (2) Design-for-Reuse solutions for motors and generators in the (H)EVs of the future.


Policy Brief DEMETER_EREAN_June 2017_FINAL