the race to make the world\'s strongest magnet
George hadjipanayis\'s assistant came to him with confusing news: some incredible strong magnetic fields caused their laboratory instruments to get out of control.
\"You\'re crazy,\" recalls Hadjipanayis . \" He told him in early 1980.
\"What happened to you;
\"Go Back\" and try again.
There was nothing wrong, though, and Hadjipanayis quickly realized that his team had accidentally created the most powerful magnet in the world at the time ---
Made from a strange, little-known \"rare earth\" element called nd.
This magnet will help the technological revolution, power the wind turbine motor and power the electric vehicle.
But luck will not last.
Available rare earth elements include:-
The two rows that occupy the bottom of the periodic table are isolated--
Not much time.
China controls the supply of 97% of these materials, but China does not like to share them with the West. And the only U. S.
After the radioactive waste accident in the 1990 s, rare earth minerals were discontinued.
In fact, rare earth elements are important to all kinds of technologies ---
That\'s why the smartphone vibrates, why the TV has vivid red and green, and how the computer\'s hard drives etching data ---
Your recipes scare many technical experts and researchers.
Without these rare earths, what would happen to our technology?
Dean of physics at the University of Delaware, Hadjipanayis, and researchers from two other institutionsS.
S. Department of Energy, Ames labs in Iowa and General Electric Global Research in northern New York are preparing for the day.
They are competing to make more powerful magnets than before. -
This is an important part of green technology, which uses magnets to convert electric energy into motion.
They are trying to do this with as few nd as possible as this element is getting harder and harder to get.
For Hadjipanayis, it\'s a career and a personal struggle.
He tried to reproduce his unexpected success with a magnet of 1980 seconds.
\"I have pressure,\" he said . \"
\"It\'s not easy, you see.
I mean, you need a little bit of luck too.
We have this concept here, but we need to solve many, many obstacles before we succeed.
\"The rare earth elements have strange magnetic and conductive properties and are not found anywhere else in our element cabinet.
Understanding exactly why this is the case requires a graduate degree in chemistry and physics,
According to Frank Johnson, a material scientist at GE Global Research, the dummy version is like this: \"in magnetic materials, magnetic ions are connected through Springs.
\"In order for this metaphor to continue, a typical rare earth element is filled with super elements.
Powerful springs, but they are all chaotic and oriented in different directions as if they were thrown into the floor of the closet.
When rare earth elements such as nd are combined with specific other elements, something magical happens: they form crystals.
If these crystals are in the right shape, all the super
Strong Spring alignment and--bam! --
The springs amplify each other and you have very powerful magnets.
\"They are very unique elements and their science is very fascinating,\" Johnson said . \".
When he asked his lab assistant to add this gas to the metal mixture they were using, the metal receiver, jipanayis, did not know that boron was the missing ingredient.
All he knew was that there was a problem with the experiment because the metal was constantly broken and falling off.
He believes that boron can act on this metal solution like eggs and milk do on the cake batter.
This will make things go smoothly.
Unexpected result: he found outiron-
The boron magnet is much stronger than anything before.
\"It was a very exciting experience for me,\" said Hadjipanayis . \".
He kept a few of these nickel.
He had a magnet of the size on his desk to show the tourists.
Scientists use a unit called \"maximum energy product\" to measure the strength of the magnet.
\"The rating of the typical refrigerator magnet is 3 or 4.
The current nd magnet is registered between 57 and 60.
A few years ago, Hadjipanayis recalled the experience of hiding a nd magnet in his coat pocket to the airport.
He said he walked past a metal object close to security and was temporarily stuck.
Hadjipanayis was able to be freed from this situation.
But if two nd magnets stick together, \"You have to divide it into two parts.
\"If you are an ordinary person, you can\'t separate them by pulling,\" he said . \".
Now, Hadjipanayis and researchers at GE and the Ames lab in Iowa are trying to make magnets that are almost twice the original strength.
In addition to trying to invent magnets that do not rely on rare earth elements, mining companies are also trying to harvest new supplies of rare earth.
This, however, poses environmental risks.
China has become the world leader in rare earth mining and production, in part because it is more willing to take these risks than the United States, which the United States is facing. In the 1990 s.
In 1998, a rare earth mine owned by Molycorp Minerals was fined for leaking thousands of gallons of wastewater containing low-level radioactive materials.
Moley\'s mine in the California desert, near the Nevada border, will reopen this year. A U. S.
The Department of Energy reported on December that in order to ensure that the technology companies here maintain the supply of these important elements, the country needs to increase rare earth production.
Jim Sims, spokesman for Molycorp, said the reopening of the mine and the upgraded processing center would make the U. S.
Back in the rare earth industry--
And will do so safely.
\"The United States will have the most eco-friendly, state-of-the-art rare earth processing capabilities,\" Sims said . \"
However, the opening of rare earth mines is an expensive, long-term and arduous task.
These elements are not particularly rare in nature, but they are usually found in a relatively small amount, mixed with other materials, which makes them both difficult and difficult during mining and processing
So the Department of Energy also said we should look for alternatives.
This is where the magnet researchers come in.
A Department of the Department of Energy is called the Senior Research Planning Bureau. Energy, or ARPA-E, has put $6.
6 million grant for the development of a magnet that is stronger than any magnet on Earth today ---
And use much less nd.
This is important because of a world without rare earth magnets. -
Or some unknown replacement. -
That would mean a huge change in technology, said Karl Gschneidner, a senior metallurgical scientist at the Ames Lab in this competition.
For example, without rare earth magnets, the laptop would weigh three to four times as much as it does now.
\"They don\'t have any other alternatives,\" he said . \".
Can we create one like the magnet researchers are trying to do?
\"Less than 50 odds-50.
\"Remixing the magic of nature over the natural magic of rare earth elements is not an easy task.
Hadjipanayis and other researchers are using nanotechnology to mix formulas for the strongest magnets of today.
At present, the best thing they can do is to divide the three components of an nd magnet into small pieces, including only thousands of atoms, and measure 20 nanometers.
According to Hadjipanayis, this tiny \"composite\" of about 2,500 will fit the width of human hair.
The lab then uses strange techniques, from chemical treatment to shaking elements violently, to try to merge the pieces together.
Hadjipanayis said he felt he was trying to put his 100 job into the three years of the energy sector contract.
He went to the laboratory every day to make progress.
He was concerned about the high risks involved.
But he thinks the grant is for him and other researchers to make sure the U. S.
There is a future in green technology.
\"If it happens, then you change everything completely,\" he said . \"