Scientists want to produce cosmic mineral to replace REEs in industrial magnets – by Staff ( – October 23, 2022)

Engineers at Northeastern University have patented a process to accelerate the production of a mineral known as tetrataenite, whose magnetic properties make it a leading candidate to replace magnets made of rare earths.

Tetrataenite is not found in nature—at least, not on earth. It is only found in meteorites. This means that making the cosmic mineral requires manipulating the atomic structures of its iron and nickel components by arranging them into a crystal structure that resembles tetrataenite, thus speeding up a natural process that would take millions of years on our planet.

“The iron and nickel atoms have to rearrange themselves. And nature will do it, but it will take millions of years to do,” Laura Lewis, one of the researchers involved in the study, said in a media statement. “So if we can do it in industrially relevant time scales, we will have a nice new addition to the permanent magnet portfolio.”

According to Lewis, decoupling the scarce materials from magnet production not only provides sorely needed supply chain relief—there simply aren’t enough magnets to meet the world’s energy needs—but it will help rebalance geopolitical tensions by easing the US dependence on Chinese rare earths.

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