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A new “super strong magnetic material” to replace REE-based magnets?

Northeastern University scientists caused a stir earlier this week with their announcement that they have designed a “super strong magnetic material that may revolutionize the production of magnets found in computers, mobile phones, electric cars and wind-powered generators,” alluding to the possibility of replacing neodymium/praseodymium permanent magnets.

On his website TechMetalResearch.com, American Resources expert Gareth Hatch cautions against “the now well-worn path of hype disguised as scientific (…) breakthroughs.” Hatch gives a number of reasons why this new magnetic material compound of manganese (Mn) and gallium (Ga) may not be all it’s cracked up to be. In a nutshell, according to Hatch, several of gallium’s properties do not lend themselves to substituting REE-based magnets anytime soon.

What is interesting to note, however, is that whether or not the material could replace REE-based magnets, it wouldn’t do much to alleviate supply concerns, as in some respects (and particularly from a U.S. standpoint with an import dependency rate hovering between 99% and 100% for all three), manganese, gallium, and REEs, are all “rare.” Substitution simply isn’t always a silver bullet.