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Molycorp, Ames Lab to Partner on Rare Earth Magnets

Rare earths (USGS)

(U.S. Geological Service)

Molycorp Inc. in Greenwood Village, Colorado and Ames National Laboratory have signed a research and development agreement to devise new methods to create commercial-grade rare-earth permanent magnets. Ames Lab in Ames, Iowa is a division of the U.S. Department of Energy.

Rare-earth elements are key components in modern electronic technologies, such as televisions, fluorescent light bulbs, cell phones, computers, medical diagnostic equipment, and military systems. They are also used to make environmentally friendly magnets in electric motors that power hybrid cars and generators used in wind turbines.

Molycorp Inc. is the only rare-earth oxide producer in the Western Hemisphere and currently produces approximately 3,000 metric tons of commercial rare earth materials per year from its facility in Mountain Pass, California. Most of the world’s production has been captured by China, to the point of a near-monopoly of the global rare-earth supply.

Ames Laboratory scientists will investigate several compositions of rare earth materials and processing techniques with the goal of producing rare earth magnets with properties comparable to currently available neodymium-iron-boron magnets. The combinations studied are expected to correspond to the concentrations of rare earth elements in Molycorp’s Mountain Pass mine. The Ames staff also plans to use techniques that are more cost effective and leave a smaller environmental footprint than current methods.

Read more. Rare Earths in the U.S.: More Than You Think

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