SHANGHAI, Oct 27 (SMM) - According to foreign media, the researcher at the University of Cambridge has made new progress, and they can make magnetic materials for wind turbines and electric vehicles without using rare earth metals.
According to the report, a team from the University of Cambridge and collaborators from Austria have discovered a way to make a new magnetic material, naming tetrataenite, which could be an alternative to rare earth permanent magnets, according to a research paper from the university.
Based on the information previously published by the Chinese Academy of Sciences, tetrataenite is composed of 50% iron and 50% nickel, and the iron and nickel atoms are alternately arranged in a regular periodic crystal structure. It produces a hard magnet, that is, the direction of magnetisation does not change easily, and its magnetic properties are close to that of rare earth magnets.
Until now, tetrataenite could only be made in the lab, relying on some non-commercial methods. But researchers at the University of Cambridge have recently discovered that it is possible to mass-produce tetrataenite by adding the common element - phosphorus.
For now, the researchers hope to work with major magnet manufacturers to determine whether tetrataenite is suitable for high-performance magnets. If the production process proves commercially viable, it could potentially replace rare earth permanent magnets in electric vehicles, wind turbines and more. China currently accounts for more than 80% of global rare earth supply.
Lindsay Greer from the Department of Materials Science and Metallurgy at the University of Cambridge, who led the research, said in the paper: There are rare earth deposits elsewhere, but mining operations are highly destructive: you have to extract a lot of material to get a small amount of rare earth. Due to the impact on the environment, and the heavy reliance on certain countries, there is an urgent need to find alternative materials that do not require rare earths.
With the rapid development of industries such as electric vehicles, the global demand for rare earths has been increasing in recent years. U.S. President Joe Biden expressed earlier this year his support for raising rare earth production, while the European Union’s foreign ministry said this month that it should diversify the supply chains, including those for rare earth metals.
SMM believes that this process has not yet been certified or proved to be feasible. If the new material is indeed comparable to rare earth permanent magnets in performance and the production cost is not high, it may become a substitute for rare earth permanent magnets. Nonetheless, it has not yet been officially certified for commercial application, and whether it can be mass-produced is still in the confirmation stage. Whether it can replace rare earth permanent magnets remains to be seen.