AI helps develop ‘clean magnet’ that could spur green energy production

AI helps develop ‘clean magnet’ that could spur green energy production

A British firm has used AI to develop a magnet free of rare earth elements at record speed, an advance that could revolutionise clean energy production.

The new magnet was developed in just three months using AI compared to the conventional process of discovering new materials which is often slow and resource-intensive based on trial and error, the firm, Materials Nexus, said.

Permanent magnets are used in virtually all gadgets around us and they form essential components of motors in wind turbines, robots and electric vehicles.

As the world explores a switch to clean energy, the demand for permanent magnets is expected to soar.

In the EV industry alone, the use of rare earth magnets could rise tenfold before the end of this decade.

The magnets are made from rare earth minerals such as neodymium and dysprosium which, as the name indicates, are rare.

Moreover, the production of rare earth elements is currently concentrated in China, which makes them vulnerable to supply chain disruptions caused by geopolitical tensions.

Mining the minerals causes carbon emissions, potentially harming local communities and the environment.

A growing body of research suggests AI could help revolutionise the discovery of new materials suitable for different industrial needs.

The new magnet, dubbed MagNex, could be made at a fifth of the material cost using AI along with a “70 per cent reduction in material carbon emissions” compared to conventional magnets, Materials Nexus said.

“With an initial focus on magnets, Materials Nexus AI platform identified and analysed over 100 million compositions of rare earth-free permanent magnet candidates that address industry challenges, such as supply chain security, cost, performance, and environmental issues,” the company said.

“The current industry standard permanent magnet took decades to discover and even longer to develop into the products we use today.”

The company collaborated with the Henry Royce Institute and the University of Sheffield to synthesise and test the magnet.

“The combination of Materials Nexus’s approach of using AI for materials discovery and the world-class facilities we have for manufacturing advanced alloys in the Henry Royce Institute here at Sheffield has allowed a novel magnetic material to be developed with breathtaking speed,” Iain Todd, a professor of metallurgy and materials processing at the University of Sheffield said.

“This achievement showcases the bright future of materials and manufacturing. The next generation of materials, unlocked through the power of AI, is highly promising for research, industry, and our planet.”