Making magnets

Researchers claim to have developed a cost-effective one-step method for producing pure Samarium Cobalt rare earth permanent magnet materials.


Researchers at Northeastern University claim to have developed a rapid, high-volume and cost-effective one-step method for producing pure Samarium Cobalt rare earth permanent magnet materials.


Magnetic compounds such as Samarium Cobalt are used extensively in the design of motor and power generators. But in the past, the production of Samarium Cobalt has been a difficult and expensive multi-step process.


Invented by Dr C.N. Chinnasamy at Northeastern’s Center for Microwave Magnetic Materials and Integrated Circuits, the direct chemical synthesis process is able to produce Samarium Cobalt rapidly and in large amounts, at a fraction of the cost of the current industry method. Also, the process is environmentally friendly, since it uses chemicals that are 100 per cent recyclable .


Vincent Harris, director of the Center for Microwave Magnetic Materials and Integrated Circuits, said: ‘A single-step chemical process has been pursued for decades with little success. This research breakthrough represents a potentially disruptive step forward in the cost-effective processing of these important materials.’


Unlike the traditional multi-step metallurgical techniques that provide limited control of the size and shape of the final magnetic particles, the Northeastern scientists’ one-step method produces air-stable ‘nanoblades’ (elongated nanoparticles shaped like blades) that allow for a more efficient assembly – a feat that may ultimately result in smaller and lighter magnets without sacrificing performance.


Chinnasamy said: ‘Such unusually shaped particles should prove valuable in the processing of anisotropic magnets that are highly sought in many military and commercial applications, and are anticipated to lead to lighter and more energy efficient end products.’