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