A team of researchers from the University of Cambridge, alongside colleagues in Austria, has discovered a potential replacement for the current method for making high-performance magnets without using rare earth elements.
These high-performance magnets, used in wind turbines and electric vehicles, are vital for building a zero-carbon economy. Currently, the best permanent magnets available require rare earth elements.
Even if the name "rare earth" sounds unpromising, these elements aren't quite as rare as they may sound. However, to date, China has a near monopoly on global production, cited a press release published by the University of Cambridge. For instance, in 2017, 81 percent of rare earth elements worldwide were sourced from China. And as geopolitical tensions with China increase, there are concerns that the rare earth supply could be at risk.
Rare earth elements are plentiful worldwide, but they're simply not easy to extract. On top of that, the mining extraction methods required are not very environmentally friendly.
An urgent need for alternative materials that do not require rare earth elements is needed, and this is where the team's research comes into play.
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