The Ion Beam Materials Laboratory at NNSA’s Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) works to characterize and modify surfaces through the use of ion beams. Its purpose is to advance materials science for the safety and security of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile—and that research also helps save the earth.
Recently researchers used the laboratory’s ion implantation capabilities to help create a powerful magnet out of iron and nitrogen as part of a program to reduce dependency on rare earth metals.
Permanent magnets from plentiful, cheap ingredients are in demand as they’re needed for making motors and generators for electric cars and wind turbines. The most powerful and useful permanent magnets are made from neodymium or samarium, both of which require extensive mining to collect from the earth’s crust.
Because iron and nitrogen are inexpensive and widely available without polluting the earth, the new research holds much promise for providing technology with powerful, reliable magnetic energy.