Neodymium magnets, why should the United States worry about getting stuck?

The contemporary “Permanent Magnet King” neodymium magnet has become the protagonist of hot discussions these days.

This is because the United States issued an order and announced that it will “not restrict the import of neodymium magnets mainly from China.”

The reason mentioned that China accounted for 75% of the sintered neodymium magnets imported by the United States last year. (Sintering is to transform the powder into a dense body, the mainstream manufacturing process)

It sparked heated discussions for a while. Although netizens are accustomed to this kind of “double standard” operation, they are still disgusted:

How can you say that you may be stuck in such a fresh and simple way.

In fact, as an indispensable power material used in mobile phones, automobiles, missiles, and fighter jets, it was originally developed by the United States, and even in the 1990s, it was once the second leader in this industry chain (the first was Japan. ).

But what the hell is going on today that there is not a single major player involved in manufacturing in the stateside of the United States.

What is the “king of modern permanent magnets” neodymium magnet?
First of all, we have to start with the protagonist of neodymium magnets.

When it comes to magnets, I believe many people are familiar with them, but what most people don’t know is that they exist in almost everything. Especially permanent magnets in which the magnetism can be maintained for a long time.

As small as our daily use of smartphones and stereos, as large as electric vehicles and infrared guided missiles, permanent magnets have become an indispensable part of most power systems.

Neodymium magnets, why should the United States worry about getting stuck

Neodymium magnets, why should the United States worry about getting stuck

A while ago, the United States discovered that the engine of the F-35 fighter jet used a Chinese-made alloy magnet, so it had to suspend delivery.

Among them, neodymium magnets, also called neodymium-iron-boron (NdFeB) alloys, are currently the most magnetic permanent magnet materials in the world. They can attract objects that are 1,000 times heavier than their own weight, and have the reputation of “the king of modern permanent magnets”. .

Moreover, its small size, light weight, high energy density, and strong stability can generate more unit power at a lower cost, which is favored by the industry. The main application areas include: automobiles, wind power, smart phones, robots, Computer hard drives, military equipment, etc.

In 2019, compared with other permanent magnet materials, the market share is as high as 65.8%. And this trend will become more prominent with the promotion of clean energy transition.

The report shows that in the next ten years, assuming no major technological breakthroughs, the electric vehicle and wind turbine industries alone will drive 80% of the demand for high-performance neodymium magnets, and the demand for the two industries will increase by 400%.

Among them, electric vehicles are a typical example.

First of all, the automobile industry itself is the largest demand side of neodymium magnets, accounting for 49.3% of the total demand in 2019. (Among them, fuel vehicles accounted for 37.5%)

△Source: Macro Polo Think Tank, Source: Huabao Securities

The neodymium magnets required by electric vehicles are 10 times higher than that of fuel vehicles. In the future, the gradual penetration of electric vehicles is almost foreseeable.

Therefore, the demand for neodymium magnets for electric vehicles will show explosive growth. According to Huabao Securities, the demand for magnets for electric vehicles is expected to increase by 600% from 2019 to 2025, exceeding 35,000 tons.

At present, only a dozen companies in the world (eight companies in China) have the ability to provide corresponding products and quality to Tesla and other auto companies.

With such an important neodymium magnet and the foreseeable explosive demand, it is not difficult to understand the United States’ move.

But if you look at the entire development process of neodymium magnets, the United States once played a pivotal role in the industrial chain.

The United States has voluntarily abandoned the neodymium magnet industry

In the 1980s, General Motors of the United States and Sumitomo of Japan developed NdFeB compounds almost simultaneously. Once launched, everyone marveled at its power and intended to push it to more applications.

But the difference is that the two companies have adopted different processes. The United States insists on using bonded neodymium magnets, while Japan uses a sintering process.

At that time, the bonding process was widely used and cheap; but sintering can generate very powerful power, so it is more popular in the industry.

Today, sintered neodymium magnets have become the most comprehensive material, and the application scenarios mentioned above basically use this process.

Unfavorable to the industry, GM sold its magnet subsidiary to a consortium of Chinese companies in 1995; and closed all U.S. production lines in 2001.

As can be seen from this picture, in the 1980s, the highest output of neodymium magnets in the United States accounted for 25%, ranking second in the world.

At this time, China has already solved the problem of large-scale production. After 2000, it officially surpassed Japan and became the country with the largest production share of neodymium magnets in the world.

As we all know, my country is a country rich in rare earth resources. The advantages brought by resources and other aspects have made the development and production of rare earth permanent magnet materials in my country develop rapidly in the past few decades.

In the mid-2000s, China accounted for nearly 80% of global neodymium magnet production.

After more than 20 years of development, my country now occupies almost the entire rare earth permanent magnet industry chain. It has nearly 60% of the mining volume, more than 85% of the processing capacity, and more than 90% of the output.

In the domestic industrial chain, upstream rare earth development is concentrated in Inner Mongolia, Sichuan, Jiangxi and other places, and production and manufacturing are concentrated in Zhejiang. Representative companies include Zhongke Sanhuan, Jinli Permanent Magnet, Zhenghai Magnetic Materials, etc.

Among them, Zhongke Sanhuan belongs to the Chinese Academy of Sciences and is the largest manufacturer of sintered neodymium magnets in China. In 2022, the company’s sintered NdFeB production capacity will be 20,000 tons, and it plans to continue to expand production by 10,000 tons this year.

The production capacity of Jinli permanent magnet blanks has reached 23,000 tons, and the production line is still being further expanded.

In contrast, the production of NdFeB in the United States is very deserted. Today, there is no large-scale enterprise in the United States that has NdFeB manufacturing business, and it is very dependent on NdFeB magnets.

Of its total neodymium magnet imports, 75% came from China, 9% from Japan, 5% from the Philippines, and 4% from Germany.

This makes overseas companies very cautious in using neodymium magnets.

For example, a research report from the U.S. Department of Energy pointed out that Tesla did not choose the permanent magnet motor technology route at the beginning because it was worried about supply chain issues.

However, the dominant position in manufacturing does not mean that my country’s rare earth permanent magnet industry has formed an absolute long-term advantage.

Because in terms of patented technology, many companies in our country still obtain authorization from Japan.

Hitachi Metals holds more than 600 sintered NdFeB patents around the world, almost monopolizing the patents for the whole process from NdFeB composition to sintering production.

At present, Hitachi Metals only authorizes high-end sintering technology to 8 companies in my country, among which are Zhongke Sanhuan and Zhenghai Magnetic Materials mentioned above.

This means that only 4% of domestic rare earth permanent magnet enterprises can produce high-performance magnets. Most of the rest of the enterprises can only produce middle and low-end products, which will cause overcapacity to a certain extent.

According to 2018 data, only 15% of the nearly 160,000 tons of neodymium magnets produced in my country are considered high-performance magnets.

According to statistics as of 2018, China produced 87% of the world’s neodymium magnets, but high-performance types accounted for 48% of the total, and the rest came from Japan and Germany.

One More Thing
Although the research and development start lagged behind that of Europe, America and Japan, my country has been catching up in the research and development of rare earth permanent magnets. United States worry Neodymium magnets

There is another interesting thing in this–

In 1983, Professor Hideo Kaneko from Sumitomo Corporation of Japan announced that they had invented the third generation of rare earth permanent magnet materials with a magnetic energy volume as high as 36MGOe, that is, neodymium magnets.

At that time, Chinese materials scientist Xie Hongzu asked:

Sir, neodymium iron cannot be alloyed, what other elements are there?

Professor Hideo Kaneko smiled without saying a word.

Finally, the answer, Nd2Fe14B, was revealed at the 29th Annual Meeting of the American Physical Society on Magnetism and Magnetic Materials.

After that, it was the Chinese scientist who asked Hideo Kaneko that he led the team to develop a NdFeB permanent magnet material with a maximum magnetic energy volume of 52.2MGOe in a low-oxygen process laboratory, which reached the highest level in the world at that time.

In 1994, when Academician Ding Zhaozhong was looking for high-performance magnets for NASA, he also chose the permanent magnet material invented by Xie Hongzu. United States worry Neodymium magnets

Some Background Information About Neodymium Magnets

Special Shaped Neodymium Magnets

Industrial Bonded NdFeB Ring Neodymium Magnets

Neodymium Magnets Types

30mm x 11mm Plastic Encased Round Neodymium Magnets

N52 2″ Large Cube Super Strong Neodymium Magnets

Rod Neodymium Magnets for Magnetic Bead Separation Rack

Traditional Alnico 1 in. Horseshoe Magnet for Science Toy

Neodymium Magnetic Tube with Double Eyebolts

Double Screw Bolt Type Magnetic Rod Separator

Central Heating Magnetic Filter Bars

Educational and Industrial Use AlNiCo U Magnet with N & S Indication