The History of EDX

With $3.6M in funding from an ARPA-e/DOE grant, we developed a disruptive technology called “Electrodynamic Sorting of Light Metals and Alloys” (EDX) specifically to recover these materials. EDX is a solid state device that generates alternating magnetic field frequencies from 100 Hz to over 50 kHz, whereas existing sorters in plants today can only generate 400-500 Hz. Because of this limited range of frequency, they have neither the sensitivity nor the resolution to separate different grades of Al alloys or the ability to sort metal mixtures in the 1-25 mm size range.

EDX is an evolving technology with a proven track record of delivering milestones on time. The project began in late 2013 and in the first quarter of 2014, a basic laboratory, equipment, and staff was established. In the second quarter, a sorting demonstration of 6 mm aluminum spheres from ceramic spheres was made. In the third quarter, new magnets and magnetic materials were explored and a demonstration showing a sort of 6 mm aluminum from copper spheres was made. Similarly, this demonstration was expanded to a four-way separation of 6mm aluminum, copper, brass, and titanium spheres. Finally, in the fourth quarter of 2014, the EDX concept was put to the test by
ARPA-e: the EDX team was given a blind sample of aluminum alloy coupons and asked to demonstrate its sorting capability. EDX sorted nine different important industrial alloys into four different groups and performed better than the five research groups competing in the ARPA-e Challenge.

Over the course of 2015, new core materials were identified, acquired, and tested. Additionally, a new and vastly more detailed physics framework was derived (ongoing). A patent for EDX was applied in mid-year and a provisional patent was granted in Sept. 2016. The EDX team presented a demonstration system which sorted 8-11 mm Zorba at the ARPA-e Energy Summit Expo in Washington DC in March 2015.

After another successful year of research, the EDX project turned its focus on the development and deployment of a prototype sorter for Zebra. After again displaying a demonstration system at the ARPA-e Energy Summit Expo in March 2016, a low throughput (15kg/hr) prototype unit was constructed and delivered to a local metal recycling facility and operated by the EDX team for one week. The primary goal was to understand if a standalone machine could be operated continuously and produce a quality product. With a feed mixture of granulated copper wire with aluminum, brass, silver, zinc, lead, and stainless steel, the prototype was able to
sort a total to date of 1,500 lbs. of Zebra to a grade of 97% and a recovery of 90%.

For the second half of 2016, efforts were focused on demonstrating higher throughput capability, such as what will been countered in an industrial environment. Specialty products such as Zebra are common at recycling facilities and represent a high value-add opportunity. In addition to work on Zebra based sorters, the EDX team has built out a lab scale conveyor-based system for sorting Zorba, and has already separated 12 mm pure copper and aluminum cylinders at 233 kg/hr and higher.