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Researchers synthesize magnetic nanoparticles that could offer alternative to rare earth magnets

A team of scientists at Virginia Commonwealth University has synthesized a powerful new magnetic material that could reduce the dependence of the United States and other nations on rare earth elements produced by China. The team’s findings will appear in an open-access paper in Applied Physics Letters.

The new material consists of nanoparticles containing iron, cobalt and carbon atoms with a magnetic domain size of roughly 5 nanometers. It can store information up to 790 kelvins with thermal and time-stable, long-range magnetic order, which could have a potential impact for data storage application.

When collected in powders, the material exhibits magnetic properties that rival those of permanent magnets that generally contain rare earth elements. Nearly 70 to 80 percent of the current rare earth materials are produced in China.

Permanent magnets, specifically those containing rare earth metals, are an important component used by the electronics, communications and automobile industries, as well as in radars and other applications. Additionally, the emergence of green technology markets—such as hybrid and electric vehicles, direct drive wind turbine power systems and energy storage systems—have created an increased demand for permanent magnets.

The current paper is a joint experimental theoretical effort in which the new material was synthesized, characterized and showed improved characteristics following the theoretical prediction.

This is good science along with addressing a problem with national importance.

—Ahmed El-Gendy, a co-author

The research was supported by ARPA-e REACT project 1574-1674 and the U. S. Department of Energy (DOE) through grant DE-SC0006420.


  • El-Gendy, Ahmed A. and Bertino, Massimo and Clifford, Dustin and Qian, Meichun and Khanna, Shiv N. and Carpenter, Everett E. (2015) “Experimental evidence for the formation of CoFe2C phase with colossal magnetocrystalline-anisotropy”, Applied Physics Letters, 106, 213109 doi: 10.1063/1.4921789


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