Inventing a New Magnet

From Minnesota Alumni Magazine Spring 2015

By Mary Hoff

Permanent magnets are increasingly important—they do everything from help power electric cars to make recording devices work. But they also are a big environmental burden because they depend on mining rare earth minerals, an energy-intensive process that requires the use of toxic chemicals with potential harm to agriculture, human health, and ecosystems. That picture could be changing soon: With funding from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy, a team from the College of Science and Engineering led by professor of electrical and computer engineering Jian-Ping Wang is developing a permanent magnet made from iron and nitrogen that is not only environmentally friendlier but also twice as strong as its conventional counterparts. Ph.D. student Md A. Mehedi recently won a $10,000 award for his work on the project from the Dow Sustainability Innovation Student Challenge Award competition, a program of Dow Chemical Company and the U’s Institute on the Environment. A start-up company, Niron Magnetics, has come on board to help move the innovation to market.

MINNESOTA ALUMNI MAGAZINE, Spring2015

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