Niron Magnetics, a company developing high-performance rare-earth-free iron-nitride (FeN) permanent magnets, has raised $21.3 million in new financing. The Volvo Cars Tech Fund and Volta Energy Technologies join existing investors Anzu Partners and the University of Minnesota.
Niron will use the funding to build its pilot production facility in Minnesota and accelerate the development of its Clean Earth Magnet technology.
Surging global demand for electric vehicles (EVs) and other motorized devices has highlighted global dependency on the unsustainably-produced rare earth materials currently required for the magnets needed in electric drivetrains and motors.
Niron’s Clean Earth Magnet technology eliminates the need for rare earth content in magnets and uses iron and nitrogen instead to deliver better performance and lower costs. Niron says that its technology delivers magnets that are less expensive, more sustainable, globally available, and made from abundant input materials not subject to supply constraints or price instability.
Niron’s production process is up to 95% less damaging across certain environmental impacts than alternatives, as its input materials require no toxic mining and refining.
Niron says that the first generation of Clean Earth Magnet will offer a magnetic field strength of approximately 0.9 Tesla and will address a wide range of applications from audio speakers, magnetic sensors and consumer appliances to industrial motors and automotive accessory motors.
The company’s second-generation magnet will offer a magnetic field strength of 1.5 Tesla and will address higher torque density applications and high operating temperatures including electric vehicle drivetrains and wind turbines.
Niron will begin sampling in limited quantity to selected partners, who can collaborate closely with Niron to design the magnets into suitable high-volume applications.
Background. As part of ARPA-E’s REACT program, the University of Minnesota (UMN) developed an early stage prototype of an iron-nitride permanent magnet material. Since completing its ARPA-E award, the University of Minnesota team created a spinout startup company: Niron Magnetics. Niron is developing the first advanced manufacturing process for the mass production of the FeN permanent magnets.
The development process of Niron’s scalable method has resulted in the publication of 20 peer-reviewed scientific papers as well as 17 granted and 35 pending patents.
Jian-Ping Wang (2020) “Environment-friendly bulk Fe16N2 permanent magnet: Review and prospective,” Journal of Magnetism and Magnetic Materials, doi: 10.1016/j.jmmm.2019.165962