Electromagnetic Light Metal Sorting

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Salt Lake City,
Project Term:
01/10/2014 - 03/19/2018

Critical Need:

Recycling light metals such as aluminum, titanium, and magnesium from scrap is primarily done manually, making it an inefficient and expensive process. Existing automated technologies are unable to distinguish different types of alloys. Innovation in light metal recycling is crucial because light metals can be used to reduce the weight of cars and aircraft, which could significantly reduce both energy use and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from transportation. Cost-effective scrap recycling could dramatically reduce the cost of light-weight metals, such as those used for aircraft construction and vehicle light-weighting.

Project Innovation + Advantages:

The University of Utah is developing a light metal sorting system that can distinguish multiple grades of scrap metal using an adjustable and varying magnetic field. Current sorting technologies based on permanent magnets can only separate light metals from iron-based metals and tend to be inefficient and expensive. The University of Utah’s sorting technology utilizes an adjustable magnetic field rather than a permanent magnet to automate scrap sorting, which could offer increased accuracy, less energy consumption, lower CO2 emissions, and reduced costs. Due to the flexibility of this design, the system could be set to sort for any one metal at a time rather than being limited to sorting for a specific metal.

Potential Impact:

If successful, the University of Utah’s sorting prototype would enable the recycling of light metals by determining alloy grades, which could reduce the need for manufacturing new metals.


Light-weighting vehicles to improve fuel efficiency could reduce U.S. dependence on foreign fossil fuel resources used in the transportation industry.


Light metal recycling from scrap consumes less energy and produces lower CO2 emissions than conventional methods used in light metal extraction.


Recycling light metal scrap can be considerably less expensive than manufacturing new metals, enabling cost-competitive integration of light metals into vehicles and aircraft.


ARPA-E Program Director:
Dr. Isik Kizilyalli
Project Contact:
Prof. Raj Rajamani
Press and General Inquiries Email:
Project Contact Email:


Eriez Manufacturing Company

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