Critical Materials Institute manufactures an all-American rare-earth magnet

As rare-earth magnets are used in an increasing number of modern technologies, the ability to produce them domestically could be important for national security. Now the Critical Materials Institute, a DOE Innovation Hub, has fabricated a batch of magnets entirely from domestically sourced and refined rare-earth metals.

The Idaho National Laboratory sourced the raw materials and refined the oxides; Infinium produced metal ingots from those oxides, which in turn were processed into magnets at Ames Laboratory.

The small gray magnet samples are nothing remarkable to look at – they are just typical NdFeB magnets. The process used to make them is similar to the techniques used elsewhere (except for some significant advances in a couple of crucial steps). What’s special about these magnets is that they are made from US-mined ores, which were domestically processed and domestically manufactured into magnets.

“This was a stretch goal of the Critical Materials Institute, to demonstrate that rare-earth magnets could be produced from mine to manufacturer, here in the United States.” said CMI scientist Ikenna Nlebedim. “Rare earths are the gold standard of this generation, because they are a part of so many of our existing and developing technologies. Any future discovery that requires them can create the possibility of increased demand and supply shortages.”

“We were asked if it was still possible to make these magnets entirely within the US, now that magnet manufacturing has very largely moved overseas,” said CMI Director Alex King.  “This proves that we can apply advanced tools and technologies developed in the US to get the job done – do it quickly, and do it rather more efficiently than it is being done elsewhere.”


Source: Ames Laboratory 

  • William Newkirk

    So if the old Molycorp Mountain Pass mine (the only Rare Earth mine in the US for Neodymium) is shut down (Care and Maintenance mode) where did the US-mined Neodymium ore come from?

    • fiddler John

      My guess is that we and not allowed to know where the USA gets the Neodymium ore. I’m afraid we’re not even allowed to ask that question.

  • Gary Lea

    “Domestically sourced and refined rare-earth metals” means that the Critical Materials Institute employed its own extraction method to recover the necessary substances from scrapped magnets.

  • Jim Fox

    Why all these naysayer questions? The article states unequivocally that all the resources come from domestic US sources. NOWHERE is there mention of recycling existing magnets, so stop making up false claims!

    The most advanced mining projects are the re-opening of the Mountain Pass mine in California by Molycorp Minerals and the new rare earth mine at Mt Weld in Australia by Lynas with processing in Malaysia.
    Though the Chinese produce more than 95% of the global production, their share of the reserves is much lower at 38 %. Large deposits are also found in the USA, Australia and states of the former Soviet Union. (p. 7) Rare earth metals are widely distributed across the earth [estimated at 99 million tonnes in REO content]. China holds around 36% of the REE reserves, Russia and other members of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) hold 19%, the U.S. holds around 13% and Australia has 5%. (DOE_2010, Critical Materials Strategy, p. 29)