Ames National Laboratory research project awarded $4.5M to understand and control properties of rare earth materials

The Department of Energy recently announced the winners for the 2022 Chemical and Materials Sciences to Advance Clean-Energy Technologies and Transform Manufacturing (CEM) awards. Among the winners is a project led by Rebecca Flint, Ames National Laboratory scientist and associate professor at Iowa State University. The project is titled, “Exploiting the interplay of

Rebecca Flint
Rebecca Flint is an Ames National Laboratory Scientist and associate professor at Iowa State University. She will lead a research effort at Ames Lab that will help in the development of permanent magnets that use fewer rare earth elements. 

mixed valence and magnetic anisotropy in rare earths.”

The focus of this project is to conduct fundamental science that can help scientist develop permanent magnets that use fewer rare earth elements (rare earths). Permanent magnets are vital to energy, transportation, and security. They are used in products such as electric vehicles, wind turbines, phones, refrigerators, and aircraft.

Many of the rare earths needed for permanent magnets are in short supply. However, rare earths are the only known materials with the necessary properties for permanent magnets. They provide large magnetization at high temperatures and have a strong magnetic anisotropy. Magnetic anisotropy makes it difficult to demagnetize the magnet in an external magnetic field.

Despite their importance, scientists need more information to accurately describe and predict the properties of rare earth systems. So, Flint’s team will develop a complete and measurable picture of how anisotropy evolves in different rare earth materials. Their work will employ theoretical, computational, and experimental methods.

According to Flint, “This research should have a significant impact on the development of novel magnets with fewer rare earths, while maintaining or enhancing anisotropy.” Ultimately, this understanding will allow scientists to predict new stable rare earth compounds that have the properties necessary to advance the design and processing of magnetic materials.

“Ames Lab has long been a leader in researching and understanding the properties of rare earth materials,” said Jamie Morris, chief research officer at Ames Lab, “and this project will build upon and extend this leadership.”

Ames National Laboratory is a U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science National Laboratory operated by Iowa State University. Ames Laboratory creates innovative materials, technologies, and energy solutions. We use our expertise, unique capabilities, and interdisciplinary collaborations to solve global problems.

Ames National Laboratory is supported by the Office of Science of the U.S. Department of Energy. The Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit