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 Alabama is developing new iron- and manganese-based composite materials for use in the electric motors of EVs and renewable power generators that will demonstrate magnetic properties superior to today's best rare-earth-based magnets. Rare earths are difficult and expensive to refine. EVs and renewable power generators typically use rare earths to make their electric motors smaller and more powerful. The University of Alabama has the potential to improve upon the performance of current state-of-the-art rare-earth-based magnets using low-cost and more abundant materials such as manganese and iron. The ultimate goal of this project is to demonstrate improved performance in a full-size prototype magnet at reduced cost.
If successful, the University of Alabama's project would demonstrate improved performance in permanent magnets without using rare earths. This would facilitate the spread 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.