ARPA-E Investor Update Vol. 18
On November 8, 2023, ARPA-E awardee Niron Magnetics raised $33M in funding for their proprietary Clean Earth Magnet™ technology from the venture funds of General Motors (GM), Stellantis, and other investors. The strategic partnership between Niron, GM, and Stellantis will enable Niron to move beyond the production capacity supported by ARPA-E’s Seeding Critical Advances for Leading Energy technologies with Untapped Potential (SCALEUP) 2021 program, increase customer prototyping programs, and support small-scale product runs for key entry markets. This is in addition to a $21.3M raise in July 2021 from the Volvo Cars Tech Fund and Volta Energy Technologies. To date, Niron has raised $71.05M in funding from various funding sources for their Clean Earth Magnet, which was recently named among TIME’s List of The Best Inventions of 2023.
Niron’s Clean Earth Magnet™ (Source: Niron Magnetics)
Niron spun out in 2014 from work at the University of Minnesota (UMN) funded through ARPA-E’s Rare Earth Alternatives in Critical Technologies (REACT) program. The REACT program focused on developing cost-effective alternatives to rare earth materials used in electric vehicle (EV) motors and wind generators. ARPA-E provided $4.25M in funding to UMN and project partner Oak Ridge National Laboratory as part of REACT.
Niron received an additional $17.5 million in ARPA-E funding through the SCALEUP 2021 program to commercialize their rare-earth free magnet made instead from iron nitride. The goal of the SCALEUP program is to help transition ARPA-E-funded technologies from proof-of-concept prototypes to commercially scalable and deployable versions of the technology and be well-positioned for investment from the private sector. Niron is currently using SCALEUP funding for pilot production efforts to commercialize their permanent magnets.
"ARPA-E has been foundational to Niron's success,” said Niron Magnetics CEO Jonathan Rowntree. “The REACT award supporting University of Minnesota research on iron nitride was the spark that led to Niron becoming a company. The SCALEUP program was a major milestone in our commercialization. It positioned us for this private sector investment, including from GM and Stellantis".
The use of rare earth materials for permanent magnets in electric applications has been the industry standard because these materials create and retain their own persistent and strong magnetic fields, leading to their high performance. Extracting these materials is expensive and environmentally damaging. Moreover, the current supply of rare earth materials is largely sourced from foreign countries, raising geopolitical and supply chain concerns. Iron nitrides are the first rare-earth free materials discovered that can be processed and still retain magnetism strong enough for current use applications of rare earth magnets, such as in EV motors. These materials are also widely available, relatively inexpensive, and can be sourced domestically to secure a U.S. supply chain.
Iron Nitride Manufactured by Niron Magnetics at the Company's Facility in Minneapolis, MN. (Source: Niron Magnetics)
Niron will develop clean-earth permanent magnets that hope to revolutionize multiple markets including EV motors, wind turbines, consumer electronics, and HVAC systems, reducing their greenhouse gas emissions and getting us closer to a net zero future.