Rare earth research wins clean energy award

A project about rare earth materials has won an award from the US Department of Energy (DoE) for its focus on clean energy.

The project is run by Rebecca Flint, an Ames National Laboratory scientist and associate professor at Iowa State University. It is entitled ‘Exploiting the interplay of mixed valence and magnetic anisotropy in rare earths’ and received a ‘Chemical and Materials Sciences to Advance Clean-Energy Technologies and Transform Manufacturing’ award.

The research involves making permanent magnets that use fewer rare earth elements.

“Many of the rare earths needed for permanent magnets are in short supply, while rare earths are the only known materials with the necessary properties for permanent magnets,” Ames said in a press release. “They provide large magnetization at high temperatures and have a strong magnetic anisotropy. Magnetic anisotropy makes it difficult to demagnetize the magnet in an external magnetic field.”

Plans are for Dr Flint and her team to develop a “complete and measurable picture” of how anisotropy [the property of a material which allows it to change or assume different properties in different directions] evolves in different rare earth materials to allow scientists to describe and predict the properties of rare earth systems with more accuracy.

The aim is to be able to predict new stable rare earth compounds to improve the design and processing of magnetic materials.