Existing magnets for EV motors use neodymium, a rare-earth metal mostly produced in China, as well as iron and boron. As prices of neodymium rise, the industry has actively been seeking alternative materials. As reported on the Nikkei website, a team of researchers mainly from Toda Kogyo Corp. and Tohoku University, have announced that they have succeeded in making a magnetic material without rare-earth metals.
The material is an ultrafine powder made from iron and nitrogen measuring tens to hundreds of nanometers in diameter which can be used in electric-vehicle motor magnets, the researchers say. A magnet made of this compound will be “60% more powerful than existing magnets,” says Professor Migaku Takahashi of Tohoku University.
This opens a new frontier in the development of smaller magnets, making it possible to reduce the size of EV motors by 40% without compromising power. The team was able to make several tens of grams of the compound while ensuring even quality. But for commercial applications, the material must be moulded into a magnet by using heat and pressure.
Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda R&D Co. plan to commercialise the new compound powder by 2023.