Today’s rare-earth magnets are the strongest type of permanent magnets made and are integral to the high tech industry, particularly in cleantech (e.g., electric vehicles, data storage hard disk drives). China extracts and produces about 95% of the world’s rare-earth minerals and since 2010, has cut its exports. The mining and refining process also creates environmental concerns.
Researchers at the University of Minnesota have developed a process to create a very strong permanent magnet that does not require any rare earth inputs, such as neodymium. The theoretical magnetic energy product for this iron nitride magnet is 130 mega-gauss oersteds, which is more than twice the highest reported magnet energy product for a rare-earth neodymium magnet.
“Most of the interest in our process has been from companies who use magnets versus create them,” notes Eric Hockert, Technology Marketing Manager at the University of Minnesota. After presenting the technology at TechConnect World 2012 in Santa Clara, CA, Eric notes that they are currently in partnership/collaboration discussions with a company they met with onsite at the event. “We view TechConnect as our primary conference of the year, to showcase and share our IP that’s available for licensing to a diverse group of attendees. TechConnect has the right mix of people that are of interest to us.”
To date, ARPA-E has provided $2.5 Million US per a 3-year agreement. Mr. Hockert notes the project is being worked on jointly with Oak Ridge National Laboratory. In addition, his team is in conversations with a large company interested in providing support for the technology.
By early next year, the goal for the research team is to build a prototype of a larger magnet, and provide it to interested companies for evaluation purposes.
To learn more about the technology and licensing opportunities, visit: http://www.license.umn.edu/Products/Iron-Nitride-Permanent-Magnet--Alternative-to-Rare-Earth-and-Neodymium-Magnets__20120016.aspx.
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