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Novel Magnetic Nanoparticles Could be an Alternative to Rare Earth Magnets

Researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University have constructed a powerful novel magnetic material capable of decreasing the dependence of United States and other countries on rare earth elements produced by China.

The discovery opens the pathway to systematically improving the new material to outperform the current permanent magnets.

Shiv Khanna, Ph.D., a commonwealth professor in the Department of Physics in the College of Humanities and Sciences

The unique material is made up of nanoparticles comprising cobalt, iron and carbon atoms with a magnetic domain size measuring about 5nm. It is capable of data storage of up to 790K with thermal and time-stable, long-range magnetic order. This is likely to have a potential impact in the area of data storage.

It was noticed that the newly created material displayed magnetic properties when it was collected in powders. These magnetic properties were far better than those of permanent magnets which usually posses rare earth elements.

The challenge of producing powerful magnets without using rare earth elements is a crucial national issue as about 70 to 80% of the current rare earth materials are made in China.

The research findings will be published in the article "Experimental evidence for the formation of CoFe2C phase with colossal magnetocrystalline-anisotropy," in a forthcoming issue of Applied Physics Letters.

Permanent magnets possessing rare earth metals are a significant component required in communications, electronics, and automobile sectors. They are also used in radars and other applications. Recently the emergence of green technology markets of products such as direct drive wind turbine power systems, hybrid and electric vehicles and energy storage units have increased the demand for permanent magnets.

China, being the chief global supplier of rare earth elements, have imposed restrictions on their export, which is causing an international problem.

This research work is a joint experimental theoretical effort where the novel material was created, characterized and displayed enhanced features according to the theoretical prediction.
"This is good science along with addressing a problem with national importance," said Ahmed El-Gendy, a former postdoctoral associate in the Department of Chemistry in the College of Humanities and Sciences and a co-author of the paper.

Everett Carpenter, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Chemistry and director of the VCU's Nanoscience and Nanotechnology Program, said the new material is "already showing promise, even for applications beyond permanent magnets."

The research was supported by ARPA-e REACT project 1574-1674 and the U. S. Department of Energy (DOE) through grant DE-SC0006420.


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