Inno­v­a­tive Pro­cessing Method Set to Bring Changes to Fed­eral and Com­mer­cial Industries

Ultra-​​strong, high-​​temperature, high-​​performance per­ma­nent magnet com­pounds, such as Samarium Cobalt, are the main­stay mate­rials for sev­eral indus­tries that rely on high-​​performance motor and power gen­er­a­tion appli­ca­tions, including the Depart­ment of Defense (DOD) and the auto­mo­tive industry. Until now, pro­ducing Samarium Cobalt has been a dif­fi­cult and expen­sive multi-​​step process. North­eastern Uni­ver­sity researchers have broken new ground with an inno­v­a­tive inven­tion of a rapid, high-​​volume and cost-​​effective one-​​step method for pro­ducing pure Samarium Cobalt rare earth per­ma­nent magnet materials.

Invented by lead sci­en­tist C.N. Chin­nasamy, Ph.D., (right) at Northeastern’s Center for Microwave Mag­netic Mate­rials and Inte­grated Cir­cuits, the direct chem­ical syn­thesis process is able to pro­duce Samarium Cobalt rapidly and in large amounts, at a small frac­tion of the cost of the cur­rent industry method. Also, the process is envi­ron­men­tally friendly, with 100% recy­clable chem­i­cals, and readily scal­able to large volume syn­thesis to meet the needs for the myriad of advanced per­ma­nent magnet appli­ca­tions. The study describing the inven­tion is pub­lished in the latest issue of Applied Physics Let­ters (July 28, 2008).

A single step chem­ical process has been pur­sued for decades with little suc­cess,” said Vin­cent Harris, William Lin­coln Smith Chair Pro­fessor and Director of the Center for Microwave Mag­netic Mate­rials and Inte­grated Cir­cuits at North­eastern Uni­ver­sity and Prin­cipal Inves­ti­gator of the pro­gram. “This research break­through rep­re­sents a poten­tially dis­rup­tive step for­ward in the cost-​​effective pro­cessing of these impor­tant materials.”

Samarium Cobalt mag­nets are supe­rior to other classes of per­ma­nent mag­netic mate­rials for advanced high-​​temperature appli­ca­tions and the North­eastern inven­tion goes beyond the cur­rently known fab­ri­ca­tion process of these nanos­truc­tured mag­nets. Unlike the tra­di­tional multi-​​step met­al­lur­gical tech­niques that pro­vide lim­ited con­trol of the size and shape of the final mag­netic par­ti­cles, the North­eastern sci­en­tists’ one-​​step method pro­duces air-​​stable “nanoblades” (elon­gated nanopar­ti­cles shaped like blades) that allow for a more effi­cient assembly that may ulti­mately result in smaller and lighter mag­nets without sac­ri­ficing performance.

Such unusu­ally shaped par­ti­cles should prove valu­able in the pro­cessing of anisotropic mag­nets that are highly sought in many DOD and com­mer­cial appli­ca­tions and are antic­i­pated to lead to lighter and more energy-​​efficient end prod­ucts,” said C.N. Chinnasamy.

Northeastern’s new one-​​step process has the poten­tial to reduce com­plexity and asso­ci­ated costs of pro­cessing Samarium Cobalt mag­nets, which are used in many advanced DOD weapon sys­tems,” said Richard T. Fin­gers, Ph.D., Chief, Energy Power Thermal Divi­sion of the Air Force Research Laboratory.

Under­scoring the sig­nif­i­cance of the North­eastern inven­tion rel­a­tive to the high-​​performance rare earth magnet industry, Jin­fang Liu, Ph.D., Vice Pres­i­dent of Tech­nology and Engi­neering at Elec­tron Energy Cor­po­ra­tion, a leading devel­oper of per­ma­nent mag­netic mate­rials, added, “The devel­op­ment of stable Samarium Cobalt nanopar­ti­cles using this one-​​step chem­ical syn­thesis method may moti­vate more sci­en­tists and engi­neers to work on the devel­op­ment of next gen­er­a­tion magnets.”

This rev­o­lu­tionary inven­tion is antic­i­pated to not only revi­talize the per­ma­nent magnet industry, it has the poten­tial to bring major changes to sev­eral fed­eral and com­mer­cial indus­tries, including its poten­tial to impact the size, weight, and per­for­mance of air­craft, ships, and land-​​based vehi­cles, as well as con­tribute to more effi­cient com­puter tech­nolo­gies and emerging bio­med­ical applications.

This work rep­re­sents the most promising advance in rare earth per­ma­nent magnet pro­cessing in many years,” said Laura Hen­derson Lewis, Pro­fessor of Chem­ical Engi­neering and Chair of the Depart­ment of Chem­ical Engi­neering at North­eastern Uni­ver­sity and a col­lab­o­rator on this project. “I expect it to revi­talize inter­na­tional interest in the devel­op­ment of this impor­tant class of engi­neering materials.”

Strongly aligned with the goals set forth in North­eastern University’s Aca­d­emic Plan, this inven­tion has the poten­tial to serve global and soci­etal needs by crossing national bound­aries and having a sig­nif­i­cant impact on the engi­neering dis­ci­pline through acad­emia and industry.

For more infor­ma­tion, please con­tact Renata Nyul at 617–373-7424 or at r.​nyul@​neu.​edu.

About North­eastern

Founded in 1898, North­eastern Uni­ver­sity is a pri­vate research uni­ver­sity located in the heart of Boston. North­eastern is a leader in inter­dis­ci­pli­nary research, urban engage­ment, and the inte­gra­tion of class­room learning with real-​​world expe­ri­ence. The university’s dis­tinc­tive coop­er­a­tive edu­ca­tion pro­gram, where stu­dents alter­nate semes­ters of full-​​time study with semes­ters of paid work in fields rel­e­vant to their pro­fes­sional inter­ests and major, is one of the largest and most inno­v­a­tive in the world. The Uni­ver­sity offers a com­pre­hen­sive range of under­grad­uate and grad­uate pro­grams leading to degrees through the doc­torate in six under­grad­uate col­leges, eight grad­uate schools, and two part-​​time divi­sions. For more infor­ma­tion, please visit www​.north​eastern​.edu.