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Hydro Team Up with MIT to Optimize Recycling of Aluminium

Hydro has entered into an agreement with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to develop modeling and analyses to optimize the recycling of aluminium.

Hydro has 19 plants that remelt aluminium in Asia, the Americas and Europe. At a growing number of these plants, Hydro is focusing on recycling in addition to the remelting of process scrap.

MEETING: From left, Ketil Heggestad, vice president of Hydro's Recycling unit, MIT researchers Randolph Kirchain and Richard Roth, and Helge Jansen, head of R&D in Hydro, outside MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where the agreement was signed. (Photo: Hans Ole Riddervold).

In 2010, Hydro remelted more than 1 million tonnes of aluminium – of that, about 260,000 tonnes was recycled from packaging, building products, automotive parts, and a host of other sources. The company’s strategy is to increase recycling considerably through 2020 – aiming for 1 million tonnes a year.

‘Urban mining’
Plans to build a new recycling center in Karmøy, in western Norway, is part of this effort. One of the main advantages of recycling aluminium this way is that it takes just 5 percent of the energy needed to produce primary aluminium.

In addition, the sources of aluminium for recycling are near Hydro’s remelting plants, making for efficient transport – and giving rise to the phase “urban mining.”

Competitive advantage
“Recycling as effectively and profitability as possible can be a new, important competitive advantage for Hydro as an integrated aluminium company,” says Hydro researcher Hans Ole Riddervold.

“Post-consumed material comes from many different sources, consists of a number of different alloys, and the composition of scrap varies over time. The question is: How can we plan and handle this as effectively and profitability as possible?”

From ‘problem’ to strength
To answer that question, Hydro went to MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The research project builds upon a 20-year-long history of cooperation between the company and the prestigious American research institute.

Says Helge Jansen, head of R&D in Hydro’s Extruded Products business: “We have a lot of faith in this project. Among other things, we want to find how ‘problems’ in the form of various alloys can be turned into advantages in the handling of recycled materials.”

Value in alloys
The big variations in various alloys is at first glance a challenge. At the same time, alloy components, such as silicon, have considerable value if we are able to extract them effectively.

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