Carbon-Based Magnets

Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU)
Discovery & Design of Novel Permanent Magnets Using Non-Strategic Elements Having Secure Supply Chains
Image of VCU's technology
Program: 
ARPA-E Award: 
$2,188,225
Location: 
Richmond, VA
Project Term: 
01/01/2012 to 12/31/2013
Project Status: 
ALUMNI
Critical Need: 
Rare earths are naturally occurring minerals with unique magnetic properties that are used in electric vehicle (EV) motors and wind generators. Because these minerals are expensive and in limited supply, alternative technologies must be developed to replace rare-earth-based magnets in motors and generators. Alternatives to rare earths will contribute to the cost-effectiveness of EVs and wind generators, facilitating their widespread use and drastically reducing the amount of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere.
Project Innovation + Advantages: 
VCU is developing a new magnet for use in renewable power generators and EV motors that requires no rare earth minerals. Rare earths are difficult and expensive to process, but they make electric motors and generators smaller, lighter, and more efficient. VCU would replace the rare earth minerals in EV motor magnets with a low-cost and abundant carbon-based compound that resembles a fine black powder. This new magnet could demonstrate the same level of performance as the best commercial magnets available today at a significantly lower cost. The ultimate goal of this project is to demonstrate this new magnet in a prototype electric motor.
Impact Summary: 
If successful, VCU's project would result in a magnet that contains no rare earth minerals and could help power a renewable power generator or an EV motor as well as any of today's best commercial magnets.
Security: 
The U.S. produces a small fraction globally of industrial rare earths. Developing alternatives to the use of rare earths has the potential to reduce our dependence on these materials and will have a positive impact on our national economic and energy security.
Environment: 
The transportation and electric power sectors account for nearly 75% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions each year. Better magnets would support the widespread use of EVs and wind power, significantly reducing these emissions.
Economy: 
The U.S. spends nearly $1 billion per day on imported petroleum. Improvements in magnet technology would enable a broader use of EVs, which would help insulate our economy from unexpected spikes in the price of oil.
Contacts
ARPA-E Program Director: 
Dr. Ping Liu
Project Contact: 
Prof. Everett Carpenter
Partners
Arnold Magnetic Technologies
Bayer Technology Services
Moog Components
Northeastern University
University of California - San Diego
Brookhaven National Laboratory