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Iron-Nitride-Based Magnets

University of Minnesota (UMN)
ARPA-E Award: 
Minneapolis, MN
Project Term: 
01/01/2012 to 09/30/2015
Project Status: 
Technical Categories: 
Image of Minnesota's technology
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: 

The University of Minnesota (UMN) is developing an early stage prototype of an iron-nitride permanent magnet material for EVs and renewable power generators. This new material, comprised entirely of low-cost and abundant resources, has the potential to demonstrate the highest energy potential of any magnet to date. This project will provide the basis for an entirely new class of rare-earth-free magnets capable of generating power without costly and scarce rare earth materials. The ultimate goal of this project is to demonstrate a prototype with magnetic properties exceeding state-of-the-art commercial magnets.

Potential Impact: 

If successful, UMN's project would demonstrate improved performance in permanent magnets without using rare earths--facilitating the greater use and lower cost of renewable power and EVs.


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.


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.


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.

ARPA-E Program Director: 
Dr. Ji-Cheng Zhao
Project Contact: 
Prof. Jianping Wang
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Release Date: