Laura Lewis, Cabot Professor of Chemical Engineering
From wind turbines to electric motors, alternative energy solutions need super-strong magnets to function. These magnets, in turn, require rare earth elements—and more than 95 percent of the world’s supply is in China, where prices are kept high.
Lewis has devised a novel approach to creating super-strong magnets. If successful, it will reduce the cost of alternative energy and make us less reliant on rare earth elements present in virtually every modern technological device.
Lewis is devising another method for producing super-strong magnets—inspired by a similar process that meteorites undergo over a few billion years. As a meteorite cools, its nickel and iron atoms arrange themselves into highly ordered structures that have super-magnetic properties.
An expert in nanochemistry, Lewis is using precisely arranged nickel and iron nanoparticles to recreate these alternative magnets— and in a tiny fraction of the time needed by meteorites.