Studies would lead to lighter, cheaper magnets


( —Sometimes you have to apply a little pressure to get magnetic materials to reveal their secrets. By placing a permanent magnet under high pressures, Lawrence Livermore researchers are exploring how atomic structure enhances magnetic strength and resistance to demagnetization. This fundamental research into magnetic behavior has important implications for engineering stronger, cheaper magnets.

Permanent magnets based on rare earth elements are in high demand for energy technologies such as windmills and electric motors that generate rotational energy through opposing magnetic forces.

In September 2013, a team from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology conducted neutron scattering research at Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Spallation Neutron Source Spallation Neutrons and Pressure (SNAP) Diffractometer to examine the magnetic properties of a rare-earth-based permanent magnet containing the elements lanthanum and cobalt, known as LaCo5.

“We’re using high pressure to tune the structural and magnetic properties of permanent magnets like LaCo5,” said Jason Jeffries of the LLNL research team. “We can see how the atomic structure of the material changes as the magnetic moment, or the magnetic strength, of the system changes under pressure.”

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