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REFREEPERMAG is the acronym of the EU-NMP funded project “Rare-Earth Free Permanent Magnets” (start date 1st of may 2012-end date 30th of April 2015).

Magnets are integral to motors, actuators and generators; they provide the mechanism to turn mechanical energy to electrical energy, and vice versa. The stronger the magnet, the more energy-efficient the device can be, so these earth-containing supermagnets are utilized in computers, automobiles and other vehicles (including hybrid vehicles), consumer electronic products, medical products and systems and motors of all kinds. They add functionality to jet fighter engines, electronic countermeasure systems, missile systems and satellite communication systems. Magnets are also integral parts of alternative energy systems, such as those that harvest wind, wave and tidal power. Globally, permanent magnet markets are expected to increase from $11 billion in 2010 to $15.5 billion by 2020. The rare-earth permanent magnet segment accounts for over 60%, or nearly $ 6 billion in 2008. The rest is covered by Ferrites and Alnico.

By using drive motors and generators containing PM magnets, hybrid vehicles can travel roughly 1.8 times the distance of a non-hybrid vehicle on the same quantity of fuel. Use of PM in electric power steering can also deliver a 3.5% saving on CO2 emissions. With the demand for hybrid vehicles growing every year and the expectation that the motors will also be used in electrical vehicles, the number of permanent magnet motors used in vehicles is likely to increase further.

The REFREEPERMAG project is concerned with the development of a new generation of high-performance permanent magnets (PM) without rare-earths. Our approach is based on

a) novel production of high-aspect-ratio (>5) nanostructrures (nanowires, nanoparticles, nanorods, nanoflakes) by exploiting the magnetic shape anisotropy of the constituents that can be produced via chemical nanosynthesis -polyol process or electrodeposition- in known and new magnetic phases, which can be consolidated with novel processes for a new generation of rare-earth free permanent magnets with energy product in the range of 60 KJ/m3 <(BH)max < 160 KJ/m3 at room temperature, and

b) using a high-throughput thin film synthesis and high-through-put characterization approach to identify very promising candidate materials that can be stabilized in a tetragonal or hexagonal structure by epitaxial growth on selected substrates, under various conditions of pressure, stoichiometry and temperature. Such phases can be formed under “extreme conditions“, possessing the characteristics of a good candidate material for permanent magnets e.g. large remanence Br and coercivity Hc, and can be considered as a replacement of the high-energy product rare-earth permanent magnets, which find a broad use for the environmental friendly generation 48+15and distribution of electrical power for civilian and military applications.