Niron Magnetics Partners with Marquette University and General Motors to Develop Drivetrains for Electric Vehicles using Rare-Earth Free Materials


Niron Magnetics, the company that has developed the world’s first advanced manufacturing process for the mass production of high performance, rare-earth free permanent magnets, today announced a partnership with Marquette University and General Motors to develop the next generation of electric vehicle drivetrains through a $5 million grant from the Department of Energy.

Demand for electric and hybrid vehicles continues to grow and new forecasts predict that they will account for an estimated 30% of all vehicle sales by 2025. However, the drivetrains traditionally utilized in EV and HV designs are powered by rare-earth materials, which are predicted to experience a shortage by 2030, hindering long-term growth potential.

Dr. Ayman El-Refaie, Werner Endowed Chair in Secure/Sustainable Energy and professor of electrical and computer engineering at Marquette University will serve as the lead on the three-year DOE Vehicle Technologies Office project that seeks to

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Shapeshifting Materials Could Transform Our World Inside Out

This story originally appeared in the December issue of Discover magazine as “Scientist in Toyland.” Support our science journalism by becoming a subscriber.

It’s easy to pin labels on Chuck Hoberman, but hard to stick with just one. He’s an inventor, an artist, a tinkerer. He’s a designer, an engineer, a transformer. He’s a toymaker — the brains behind the colorful, expanding Hoberman sphere, which you and your kids have been playing with since the early 1990s (and which earned a place in the Museum of Modern Art’s permanent collection). Thematically, Hoberman’s work lands him at the intersection of art, architecture, design and playthings. Physically, he works sometimes from an airy room on the second floor of a house-turned-office-suite near Harvard Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The Cambridge office is tidy, with white walls and plenty of light. The surfaces are usually cleared, but today they’re cluttered with the material

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Scientists Are Developing New Materials to Keep Us Cool

Scientists are finding new cooling methods that may even be as innovative as this!

Scientists are finding new cooling methods that may even be as innovative as this!
Photo: Charly Triballeau (Getty Images)

The world is getting hotter, and the most common technologies to cool down our homes are making things worse. In a new special issue of the journal Science, researchers have identified key ways to get us out of that catch-22. They include cutting-edge technologies and materials that could fundamentally change air conditioning for the better.

One of the most commonly used cooling technologies on Earth is vapor compression refrigeration, which essentially uses a heat engine but runs it backwards. Normally, heat flows from hot places to cold places, but this method uses a heated refrigerant liquid which is able to pull heat from a warm place instead. Another version of the process can be used to heat homes, too.

In one study published in the

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Scientists discover new family of quasiparticles in graphene-based materials

Credit: CC0 Public Domain

A group of researchers led by Sir Andre Geim and Dr. Alexey Berdyugin at The University of Manchester have discovered and characterized a new family of quasiparticles named ‘Brown-Zak fermions’ in graphene-based superlattices.

The team achieved this breakthrough by aligning the atomic lattice of a graphene layer to that of an insulating boron nitride sheet, dramatically changing the properties of the graphene sheet.

The study follows years of successive advances in graphene-boron nitride superlattices which allowed the observation of a fractal pattern known as the Hofstadter’s butterfly—and today (Friday, November 13) the researchers report another highly surprising behavior of particles in such structures under applied magnetic field.

“It is well known, that in zero magnetic field, electrons move in straight trajectories and if you apply a magnetic field they start to bend and move in circles”, explain Julien Barrier and Dr. Piranavan Kumaravadivel, who carried out

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How materials you’ve never heard of could clean up air conditioning

In recent months, researchers at the Polytechnic University of Catalonia and the University of Cambridge performed a simple experiment that could have huge implications for cooling and refrigeration.

They placed plastic crystals of neopentyl glycol (a common chemical used to produce paints and lubricants) into a chamber, added oil, and cranked down a piston. As the fluid compressed and applied pressure, the temperature of the crystals rose by around 40 ˚C.

It was the largest temperature shift ever recorded from materials placed under pressure. And alleviating the pressure has the opposite effect: cooling the crystals dramatically.

In a Nature Communications paper published last year, the research team said the results highlight a promising approach to replacing traditional refrigerants, potentially delivering “environmentally friendly cooling without compromising performance.” Such advances are crucial, since increasing wealth, growing populations, and rising temperatures could triple energy demands from indoor cooling by 2050 without major technological

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Antiferromagnetic material’s giant stride toward commercial application

Antiferromagnetic material's giant stride toward commercial application
Fig.1: A schematic diagram of information storage using conventional ferromagnet (FM)-based spintronic devices (left) and the proposed antiferromagnets (AFMs)-based devices (right) (the arrows indicate magnetic moments). In FM-based devices (left), bits of information (state “1” or “0”) are encoded in the orientation (red/up or blue/down) of the moments. The compensated structure of AFMs (right) entails unique advantages while posing significant hurdles at the same time. Credit: Samik DuttaGupta and Shunsuke Fukami

The quest for high throughput intelligent computing paradigms—for big data and artificial intelligence—and the ever-increasing volume of digital information has led to an intensified demand for high-speed and low-power consuming next-generation electronic devices. The “forgotten” world of antiferromagnets (AFM), a class of magnetic materials, offers promise in future electronic device development and complements present-day ferromagnet-based spintronic technologies (Fig. 1).

Formidable challenges for AFM-based functional spintronic device development are high-speed electrical manipulation (recording), detection (retrieval), and ensuring the stability of

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Why Silk Is One of the Best Materials For Face Masks

At the start of the coronavirus pandemic, Patrick Guerra’s wife, a doctor, would strap on an N95 respirator mask, then cover it with a disposable surgical mask to prolong its use. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends healthcare workers put on a new N95 respirator after each patient, but a national shortage of N95s and other equipment made that impossible. 

“My wife’s a radiology medical resident and was doing these procedures that are aerosol generating, where she’s within a few inches of the person’s face,” says Guerra, a biological sciences professor at the University of Cincinnati. “I thought, I’ve got to figure something out.”

A Natural Fit 

Guerra, who studies the complex architecture of silk moth cocoons, wondered if a silk mask might serve as a better protective barrier over the N95 because he’d observed that the cocoons are naturally water repellent. “The caterpillars basically build these

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Sun-Powered Chemistry Can Turn Carbon Dioxide into Common Materials

The manufacture of many chemicals important to human health and comfort consumes fossil fuels, thereby contributing to extractive processes, carbon dioxide emissions and climate change. A new approach employs sunlight to convert waste carbon dioxide into these needed chemicals, potentially reducing emissions in two ways: by using the unwanted gas as a raw material and sunlight, not fossil fuels, as the source of energy needed for production.

This process is becoming increasingly feasible thanks to advances in sunlight-activated catalysts, or photocatalysts. In recent years investigators have developed photocatalysts that break the resistant double bond between carbon and oxygen in carbon dioxide. This is a critical first step in creating “solar” refineries that produce useful compounds from the waste gas—including “platform” molecules that can serve as raw materials for the synthesis of such varied products as medicines, detergents, fertilizers and textiles.

Photocatalysts are typically semiconductors, which require high-energy ultraviolet light to

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Battelle Awarded $46.3 Million Contract to Support Manufacturing of Materials for Extreme Hypersonic Environments

Battelle has won a potential seven-year, $46.3 million contract to help the Department of Defense support the manufacture of thermal protection materials that can withstand extreme hypersonic environments.

The Manufacturing of Carbon/Carbon Composites for Hypersonic Applications (MOC3HA) initiative seeks to rapidly mature and integrate manufacturing innovations that will accelerate the production of carbon/carbon composites.

The Air Force Research Laboratory received five bids for the Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity (ID/IQ) contract and will obligate $6.3 million in fiscal 2020 research, development, test and evaluation funds at the time of award.

“Battelle made a strategic decision a little over a year ago to re-examine the basic process used for creating critical high-temperature carbon materials that are used in hypersonic vehicle shells and structures,” said Andy Kirby, Research Lead for Space and Hypersonics. “Currently it’s a very expensive, time-consuming process that doesn’t lend itself to the scalability needed to meet the increasing demand for

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New approach determines optimal materials designs with minimal data

New approach determines optimal materials designs with minimal data
Credit: Northwestern University

Northwestern University researchers have developed a new computational approach to accelerate the design of materials exhibiting metal-insulator transitions (MIT), a rare class of electronic materials that have shown potential to jumpstart future design and delivery of faster microelectronics and quantum information systems—foundational technologies behind Internet of Things devices and large-scale data centers that power how humans work and interact with others.

The new strategy, a collaboration between Professors James Rondinelli and Wei Chen, integrated techniques from statistical inference, optimization theory, and computational materials physics. The approach combines multi-objective Bayesian optimization with latent-variable Gaussian processes to optimize ideal features in a family of MIT materials called complex lacunar spinels.

When researchers search for new materials, they typically look in places where existing data on similar materials already exists. The design of many classes of materials properties have been accelerated in existing works with data-driven methods aided by high-throughput

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