As the search for improved quality products continues, Neodymium magnets are taking center stage. Considered as a remarkable modern invention, that has several benefits and uses. Whether we know it or not, we are using these magnets in one form or another, and if you start looking around, it will not be difficult to find many devices using these magnets. Whether it is a headphone, computer hard disk or loudspeaker, these magnets are an essential part of it.
Neodymium magnets are an alloy of neodymium, boron, and iron. The chemical formula for this tetragonal crystalline structure is Nd2Fe14B. Irrespective of their size, neodymium magnets have enormous power. They have therefore bridged the gap, where ferrite and iron magnets have failed.
The origin of the word neodymium is from two Greek words “neo” and “didymos”. “Neo” means new while “didymos” means twin. The credit of its discovery goes to the Austrian inventor Baron Carl Auer Von Welsbach. However, it wasn’t until 1925 that scientists were able to isolate it in comparatively pure form. Neodymium magnets are the strongest, commercially available magnets. And also have extraordinary higher levels of resistance against any process of demagnetization.
Monetarily speaking neodymium magnets have become a popular choice because of their comparatively lower cost. China accounts for a major share of total world production. Two different production processes are used for manufacturing these magnets. The first one is a sintered process that is used to produce about 90% of total production while the remaining part is manufactured using a bonded magnet process. Sintered magnets have comparatively higher magnetic strength than bonded magnets.
Another significant feature of small neodymium magnets is the higher Curie temperature. Curie temperature refers to a temperature where the magnetic power of a magnet is lost. Normally it ranges between 310 - 400゜C for both types of magnets. However, it is possible to increase it up to 800゜C by adding dysprosium and terbium.
There is no doubt about the fact that big neodymium magnets are one of the most useful inventions in the modern world. However, there are a few drawbacks that we should keep in mind while using them. Their Corrosive nature is one of the key disadvantages associated with these magnets. That is why one should exercise absolute caution while handling these magnets. Carelessness can result in snapping your fingers. Extra attention should be paid when working in high-temperature conditions because these magnets have a tendency to catch fire. For optimal results, a low temperature should be maintained.
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The Chinese currently supply around 95% of the world's rare-earth metals. However if the United States - and the Pentagon in particular - can set up their own supply chain, then they would be able to provide both the military and many companies in the industrial sector with all the rare earth metals that they need. This is good news for many of the blue-chip companies’ including Apple, GM, and Vestas.
1. East versus West
The government will have a close eye on the sector as they are dependent on China to fairly distribute rare earth products. Any dispute between the countries could leave the USA with a rare earth oxides deficit. Even if the products are still supplied, the cost could suddenly increase and at this time of tightening belts, this would be far from welcome. Prices have already risen in recent years, as China is said to be cutting back their export, partly as a result of the ongoing disputes with Japan. 2014 is believed to be the year that exports will really shrink and this will have an impact on the ability to develop military aircraft including stealth bombers. Although stealth bombers are not going to be the main item needing rare earth magnets, they are an essential part for them.
2. Looking for Other Sources
In an effort to minimize the problems of the Chinese withholding, Watch Ucore Rare Metals, an Alaskan company has been working on heavy rare earth deposits. Thanks to a large financial investment, there is a great deal of confidence that there is going to be a growth in demand for their products. This has been boosted by the fact that there is less time needed to get the items into production. In addition, the Alaskan State Legislature is fully behind the company.
If rare earth magnets such as alnico magnets become too expensive there are some alternatives, but they are not suitable for certain military organizations, wind turbines or power generators. Primarily because ferrite magnets are not as strong as rare earth magnets; therefore there is a compromise in terms of safety and efficiency when other neo magnets are used.
Despite the previously mentioned dispute with China, there does not seem to have been a noticeable price rise and it has been estimated that it is possible to buy the materials for rare earth magnets at a price not seen for a number of years. It is still important not to be totally dependent on another country as the supply could be cut off at any time. Stockpiling may not be the best solution at the moment but it is one that should not be discounted.
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