The Nikkei reports that Japanese manufacturers of electrical machinery and parts, spurred by unstable supplies of rare-earth metals, are seeking alternatives for motors for electric vehicles and other products.
Mitsubishi Electric and the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization have jointly developed an automotive motor which does not contain rare earths. The new motor, uses high coil density and interaction analysis technologies, is less efficient than conventional products during acceleration but performs comparably after reaching a stable speed.
TDK Corp. has developed a dysprosium-free permanent magnet. It aims to commercialize the product, which is just as strong as those containing dysprosium, as a magnet for use in automotive motors in 2014 or later.
Toshiba Corp. is working on a magnet that uses samarium instead of dysprosium. Samarium deposits are abundant in Australia and the US. (Earlier post.)
The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry plans to set up a research organization with automakers, magnet manufacturers, universities and public research institutions to develop powerful, heat-resistant magnets using common materials. It also intends to make use of a supercomputer in cooperation with the Science and Technology Ministry, with the two ministries to spend a combined 2.7 billion yen [US$35 million] on such projects under the fiscal 2012 budget.