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Ames Laboratory scientists create cheaper magnetic material for cars, wind turbines

Karl A. Gschneidner and fellow scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory have created a new magnetic alloy—a potential replacement for high-performance permanent magnets found in automobile engines and wind turbines--eliminates the use of one of the scarcest and costliest rare earth elements, dysprosium, and instead uses cerium, the most abundant rare earth.

Development of Radically Enhanced alnico Magnets (DREAM) for Traction Drive Motors

FWP/Project Description: 
In order to enable domestic automobile makers to offer a broad range of vehicles with electric drive motors with either hybrid or purely electric motor drives, this project will utilize a demonstrated science‐based process to design and synthesize a high energy product permanent magnet of the alnico type in bulk final shapes without rare earth elements that will be competitive with existing commercial RE‐based magnets on a cost per MGOe per Kg basis and will have a more sustainable long term supply and cost outlook.The keys to improving coercivity in the alnico family, its main deficiency, will be further unraveled using experimental alnico samples (either chill cast, melt spun ribbon, or pre‐alloyed powder processed) and detailed characterization tools, and state‐of‐the‐art computational modeling and simulation (including Genetic Algorithm atomistic phase stability calculations, kinetic Monte Carlo interface calculations, phase field transformation modeling, and meso‐scale magnetics modeling).

Improved alnico will require alloy design changes, specifically targeted to minimize the content of Co, which is the most expensive component, to select alloy additions that boost coercivity, and to explore the use of an “X” addition to the Fe‐Co phase that induces magneto‐crystalline anisotropy. Also, magnet processing changes will be developed that move away from the need for machining of final magnet shapes and move toward the ability for mass production. The outcome of the new research probably will replace the conventional methods of bulk alnico magnet fabrication: 1) casting in a special mold with directional cooling capability, or 2) powder metallurgy processing by an elemental blend approach with new powder processing approaches that starts with pre‐alloyed alnico powder and result in net‐shape bulk magnets that require little if any post‐processing machining or grinding.

This research is supported by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

EFRC - Center for Defect Physics in Structural Materials

FWP/Project Description: 

This project will help incorporate our new, efficient, order-N (where N is the number of scattering sites in a defected crystal) method for solving the Poisson’s equation for site-centered electronic-structure method used within the center (i.e., the LSMS code) for critical simulations. The method will be extended in collaboration to develop capabilities for relaxation by atomic forces within this new formulation for full quantum simulation of large-scale defected systems.

This research is supported by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Basic Energy Sciences. The Energy Frontier Research Center is funded through the US DOE Oak Ridge National Laboratory.


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