ISU researchers discover new magnetic allow for wind turbines, cars

Iowa State University researcher Arjun Pathak melts material for a new magnetic alloy he helped to create. (The Ames Laboratory)

Nick Fetty | April 30, 2015

Researchers at Iowa State University have created a new magnetic alloy which is expected to replace “traditional rare-earth permanent magnets” for products such as automobiles and wind turbines.

The researchers published their findings in a report titled “Cerium: An Unlikely Replacement of Dysprosium in High Performance Nd–Fe–B Permanent Magnets” in the journal Advanced Materials. The new magnetic allow will serve as a more affordable and abundant alternative to dysprosium which is “one of the scarcest and costliest rare earth elements.” Though dysprosium does not exist in nature as a free element, “[it] is found in various minerals, such as xenotime.”

The new alloy consists of “iron, neodymium and boron co-doped with cerium and cobalt” and costs up to 40 percent less than the current alloy that requires dysprosium. The researchers found that the new alloy’s intrinsic coercivity (the ability of a magnetic material to resist demagnetization) is able to function at temperatures of 150° C or higher, a marked improvement over dysprosium.

“This is quite exciting result; we found that this material works better than anything out there at temperatures above 150° C,” researcher Karl A. Gschneidner said in a press release. “It’s an important consideration for high-temperature applications.”

This research was part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s ARPA-E REACT program (Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy–Rare Earth Alternatives in Critical Technologies).

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