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ARPA-E Awards Consortium $4.4M to Develop Next-Generation Magnets; Applications in Motors in Hybrids, EVs, Wind Turbines

Schematic representation of the bottom-up assembly concept to develop high-energy nanocomposite materials for next-generation magnets. Source: Univ. of Delaware. Click to enlarge.

A consortium led by the University of Delaware won a $4.4 million grant from the US Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA-E) (earlier post) to develop high-performance, next-generation permanent magnet materials, with a 2x target increase over the state-of-the art magnetic energy density.

High-energy permanent magnets are critical components in the new energy economy due to their widespread use in advanced motors for hybrids and electric vehicles and in advanced wind turbine generators, and the currently dominant Nd-Fe-B (neodymium, iron and boron) magnets use materials that are not domestically available and are subject to critical supply disruptions.

George Hadjipanayis, the Richard B. Murray Professor of Physics and chairperson of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Delaware, is the principal investigator on the project. He will coordinate a team of chemists, material scientists, physicists, and engineers from the University of Delaware; University of Nebraska; Northeastern University; Virginia Commonwealth University; the US Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory at Iowa State University, in Ames, Iowa; and the Electron Energy Corporation in Landisville, Pa.

Hadjipanayis was one of the three researchers who discovered the Nd-Fe-B magnets in the early 1980s. In the new project, he and his team will be working to identify new materials that will result in magnets twice as strong as those currently in existence.

The UD-led team will explore three different routes over the three-year project:

  • Discover new materials in tertiary rare earth-transition metal-element X systems that have not yet been explored due to synthesis difficulties such as vapor pressure, high reactivity, toxicity, or their refractory nature.

  • Develop materials that are free of rare earth metals and stabilized by the addition of small non-magnetic atoms (Fe-Co-X).

  • Use the bottom-up approach to develop high-energy nanocomposite materials consisting of a uniform and nanoscale mixture of high anisotropy hard (Nd-Fe-B) and high magnetization soft (Fe) magnetic phases.

At the recent International Conference on Magnetism 2009 held in Germany, Prof. Hadjipanayis gave an invited talk on a novel experimental approach for large-scale fabrication of rare-earth-transition-metal magnetic nanoparticles.

The approach of the University of Delaware researchers is based on high-energy ball milling, which for two decades has been employed in manufacturing of nanocrystalline and amorphous permanent magnet materials. In their study, the milling was done in the presence of surfactants (oleic acid) which kept the size of the particles small. The SmCo particles fabricated by this technique had an average size down to 5-6 nm and exhibited a room-temperature coercivity of up to 19 kOe.

These nanoparticles are expected to play a very important role (as a hard magnetic component) in the synthesis of nanocomposite high performance permanent magnets with double the strength of the best existing magnets. The hard magnetic flakes, which were also fabricated by this procedure, could have applications in laminated magnets with increased electrical resistivity and high-gradient magnetic filters.



So how does this compare to the claims of high-temperature, super conducting magnets? ... BTW, where are those high-temperature, super conducting magnets?

Bob Wilson


You may be as suprised as I was to discover that high temp in this application refers to temps between ~ 20oK - 100oK.
or minus 300oC - minus 200oC. Cooled by liquid nitrogen or possibly liquid Hydrogen.
This may have application in Liquid Hydrogen powered vehicles.
I would'nt be holding my breath.


This has nothing to do with super-conducting magnets. We are talking here about permanent magnets that are not using [high quantities of] rare-earth materials. Permanent magnets are used everywhere in electric motors and generators and are the basis for energy production from wind and electric cars.
Unfortunately the rare-earth materials are mostly found in Chinese mines (current production of some of them is 99% from these mines) and the Chinese government is treatening to limit/block the export of this strategic materials.


Previous post(s) addressed Bobs question

High temperatures in the conventional sense are the bane of permanent magnets to date. Shock and heat degrade performance over time. If the heat resistance issues can be solved or designed out by removing the same, then these double strength units would be even more helpful. Reducing complexity allowing higher rpms and mass reduction.
Not sure how practical nano production is - yet.


Years ago Delco developed Magna-Quench synthetic magnets which were used in GM starters. A few years ago during financial duress they sold the technology to the Chinese. These magnets were promoted as being equivalent to Nd-Fe-B but at much lower cost. Are these still in use?

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