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:
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) is working to reduce the cost of wind turbines and EVs by developing a manganese-based nano-composite magnet that could serve as an inexpensive alternative to rare-earth-based magnets. The manganese composite, made from low-cost and abundant materials, could exceed the performance of today's most powerful commercial magnets at temperature higher than 200°C. Members of PNNL's research team will leverage comprehensive computer high-performance supercomputer modeling and materials testing to meet this objective. Manganese-based magnets could withstand higher temperatures than their rare earth predecessors and potentially reduce the need for any expensive, bulky engine cooling systems for the motor and generator. This would further contribute to cost savings for both EVs and wind turbines.
If successful, PNNL's project would result in a permanent magnet that contains no rare earth minerals and could help power a renewable power generator or an EV motor better than today's best commercial magnets.
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.