Magnetic breakthrough may have significant pull

Dec 20, 2011
Magnetic breakthrough may have significant pull
Physics professor Don Heiman and graduate student-researcher Steven Bennett have designed a super-strong magnetic material that may revolutionize the production of magnets found in computers. Photo by Mary Knox Merrill.

(PhysOrg.com) -- Northeastern University researchers have designed a super-strong magnetic material that may revolutionize the production of magnets found in computers, mobile phones, electric cars and wind-powered generators.

The findings — which dovetail with Northeastern’s focus on use-inspired research that solves global challenges in health, security and sustainability — will be published in an upcoming edition of the journal Applied Physics Letters.

“State-of-the-art electric motors and generators contain highly coercive magnets that are based on rare-earth elements, but we have developed a new material with similar properties without those exotic elements,” said coauthor Don Heiman, a physics professor in the College of Science.

Heiman’s work aligns with Northeastern’s existing expertise in this area. The university's Center for Microwave Materials and Integrated Circuits, for example, works to develop next-generation microwave materials and device solutions for radar and wireless communication technologies for U.S. defense and commercial industries.

For this study, the team of researchers, including undergraduates Tom Cardinal and Thomas Nummy and graduate student Steven Bennett, found that the compound manganese gallium can be synthesized on the nanoscale to produce a coercive field that rivals materials containing rare-earth elements, which are considerably more expensive to process and mine.

The need to develop low-cost magnetic materials is at an all-time high. Last year, China, which has cornered the market on the supply of the rare earth elements, purposely reduced production by 40 percent to drive up prices throughout the rest of the world.

As Heiman put it, “The government would be in a bind if it had to rely on China to produce hybrid cars and wind generators.”
He presented the team’s research in November in Scottsdale, Ariz., at the 56th Annual Conference on Magnetism and . Representatives of Toyota, LG Electronics and hard-drive manufacturers Seagate and Hitachi Global were particularly interested in the findings.

“It garnered a lot of interest,” Heiman said.

He praised the contribution of the trio of student-researchers, whose lab work taught them how to approach scientific problems in new ways. “The goal is to get students in the lab as soon as possible,” Heiman explained. “In class, students work on problems with specific answers, but when you enter the real world, it’s not like that."

Explore further: Physicists advance understanding of transition metal oxides used in electronics

More information: View selected publications of Don Heiman in IRis, Northeastern’s digital archive.

Related Stories

Magnetic appeal

Apr 21, 2011

Some of the world’s earliest applications of magnets were for feng shui by ancient Chinese cultures, and in compasses for navigators sailing the globe. Today, next-generation magnets are being perfor ...

Strong bonds between rare-earth metals and graphene

Sep 28, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Transistors and information storage devices are getting smaller and smaller. But, to go as small as the nanoscale, scientists must understand how just a few atoms of metals behave when deposited ...

Recommended for you

Yellowstone's thermal springs—their colors unveiled

6 hours ago

Researchers at Montana State University and Brandenburg University of Applied Sciences in Germany have created a simple mathematical model based on optical measurements that explains the stunning colors of ...

User comments : 5

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Vendicar_Decarian
3 / 5 (4) Dec 20, 2011
Information content = 00.00
antialias_physorg
not rated yet Dec 20, 2011
Information content = 00.00

Not quite. Follow the link at the bottom to the papers.
rawa1
1 / 5 (5) Dec 20, 2011
Information content = 00.00
Why do you think? The physicists revealed replacement for NdFe magnets from China with using of manganese gallium alloy. The only "subtle" problem is, the gallium is thirty times more expensive, than the neodymium. What's worse, the annual production of gallium is just 220 tons (and main producent is China), whereas the yearly consumption of neodymium is 26,500 metric tons (and main producent is China again, the USA accounts just for 600 tons from it). It means, the whole development of both electromobility both "green energy" from wind plants (where these magnets are used) depends just on the China - and the USA can do virtually anything against it - with some gallium magnets or without them.

I'd stop the whole export of neodymium already being a Chinese, which would force the Americans to deal with cold fusion research more responsibly, if nothing else.
Eikka
5 / 5 (6) Dec 20, 2011
What's worse, the annual production of gallium is just 220 tons (and main producent is China)


Gallium is produced as a byproduct of making aluminium, so anyone who makes a lot of aluminium automatically makes of gallium. China makes about 30% of the world's gallium supply, in contrast to 98% of the neodymium supply.

In dilute magnetic semiconductors, metals like gallium are used as dopants - in trace amounts.
KBK
Dec 30, 2011
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
rawa1
1 / 5 (1) Dec 30, 2011
Gallium is produced as a byproduct of making aluminium, so anyone who makes a lot of aluminium automatically makes of gallium. China makes about 30% of the world's gallium supply, in contrast to 98% of the neodymium supply.
Actually the Neodymium is as widespread as the Gallium, but the China is producing most of these elements at both cases from simple reason: because the isolation of these elements is very energy and material demanding due their similarity with another elements. Currently the gallium is 500x more expensive, than the neodymium, which tells everything about possible replacement of neodymium with gallium. If we could decrease the price of these elements so easily, why not to start with much cheaper and abundant element first? It just illustrates, the nerds visiting this forum have no idea, what the economy really is. After all, in the same way like the scientists, who are just doing basic research while pretending, it's applied research for the sake of grants.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.