Circular economy research strengthens at the University of Oulu

Three projects at the University of Oulu have received funding from the Academy of Finland’s Critical Materials in Circular Economy of Cities programme. The project will research critical materials for future electric mobility, waste incineration residues as secondary resource and possibilities to create a viable ecosystem to exploit magnesium.
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The GoverMat project between the universities of Oulu, Eastern Finland and Aalto together with VTT will look for solutions for the circular economy of critical materials for future electric mobility. The project will research, for example, the promotion of reuse and recycling of metals, and material solutions to replace critical raw materials. The GoverMat project will especially focus on batteries and battery materials, electronical components and powerful magnets. In addition, the circular economy of critical raw materials will be examined on a systemic level. The project will provide new information about interactions, properties of material flow and possible developments, and process concepts in line with the circular economy.

“The GoverMat project will strengthen the role of the University of Oulu in battery chemistry research and research related to inorganic circular economy done within the InStreams Hub”, says the project PI Professor Ulla Lassi from the University of Oulu.

The second project to receive funding is the MAGNEX project between the universities of Oulu and Tampere and Åbo Akademi. The MAGNEX project aims to alleviate the current criticality of magnesium supply in the EU by addressing bottlenecks in extracting magnesium from highly abundant local resources, natural rocks and industrial waste-streams. The main goal is to enable a wide-ranging circular economy chain that produces magnesium and sustainable construction materials from industrial side streams. A variety of other precious metals and millions of tons of captured carbon dioxide annually are by-products of the process. The ecosystem will open paths for new business models while structuring socio-economic-legislative shifts to support those novel roles of magnesium in the economy of cities.

“In the future the circulation of materials must be based on closed loops for development to be sustainable. Methods that will be developed within this project are a brave step to that direction. We are at the frontline of scientific research with this subject and that is very rewarding”, says the project PI Associate Professor Päivö Kinnunen from the University of Oulu

The third funded project SECRES is researching municipal solid waste incineration residues as secondary resource for metal recovery and construction materials. Municipal solid waste incineration reduces the volumes of waste and also contributes to energy recovery. At the same time, significant amounts of solid residues are produced. Waste incineration ashes can contain valuable critical metals and the mineral fraction of the ashes can be suitable for the use as cementitious binder. This research project will develop methods for the efficient recovery of precious metals from waste incineration ashes and at the same time improve the utilization potential of the mineral fraction. The aim is to find a technically feasible and economically viable method for utilizing the municipal solid waste incineration ashes.

“According to the principles of circular economy, waste materials should be utilised instead of using virgin raw materials. That would also decrease CO2 emissions related to processing of raw materials”, says the project PI Professor Mirja Illikainen from the University of Oulu.

Last updated: 9.12.2021