Rare-earth elements used to make permanent magnets found in electric cars, cell phones, laptops, wind turbines and factory machinery are in high demand and sourced almost exclusively outside the U.S. Alternative and Single crystals of CeCo3 synthesized by a solution growth method. Source: Andriy PalaysuikSingle crystals of CeCo3 synthesized by a solution growth method. Source: Andriy Palaysuikmore readily available materials for these applications can be identified with a computational approach developed at Ames National Laboratory Critical Materials Institute.

The materials discovery method, presented at the American Chemical Society Spring 2019 National Meeting & Exposition, screens for intrinsic magnetization properties and was demonstrated to identify high-performance magnets with reduced rare earth content and rare earth-free magnets that exceed the performance of existing non-rare earth magnets. The process was applied to two forms of cerium cobalt, which are considered paramagnets, or weakly attracted to a magnetic field.

These materials contain cerium, an abundant rare earth element, and can be upgraded to permanent magnet status by the addition of specific alloys. CeCo3 is effectively transformed into a ferromagnet by the inclusion of magnesium. Experiments combined with theoretical calculations determined optimal copper and iron concentrations required to achieve the same status for CeCo5. This permanent magnet composition could in the future substitute for devices containing neodymium and dysprosium.

The researchers are working toward eliminating rare earth constituents entirely while improving the power and performance of the alternative magnets.

To contact the author of this article, email shimmelstein@globalspec.com