The Honda Prize 2023 Awarded to Dr. Masato Sagawa and Dr. John J. Croat —Invention of the Neodymium magnet Contributing to global energy savings and CO2 emissions reductions

September 29, 2023

The Honda Foundation, a public interest incorporated foundation established by Soichiro Honda and his younger brother Benjiro and currently led by President Hiroto Ishida, is pleased to announce that the Honda Prize 2023 will be awarded to Dr. Masato Sagawa (an advisor to Daido Steel Co., Ltd. and the president of NDFEB Corporation) and Dr. John J. Croat (former president of John Croat Consulting, Inc.) for their invention of the world’s most powerful permanent magnet—the neodymium magnet—which contributes to our daily lives.

■ The world’s most powerful permanent magnet, the neodymium magnet

A permanent magnet retains a certain level of magnetic strength regardless of the surrounding environment. Permanent magnets have uses in a range of fields in our lives, and a prime example is in motors. Motors of different sizes are used in a huge variety of products, from smartphones and personal computers to home appliances and automobiles. As their essential magnetic material, many of these motors use neodymium magnets, which produce the world’s most powerful magnetic strength.

■ Critical role of neodymium magnets to achieve carbon neutrality

As the neodymium magnet has a powerful magnetic strength, downsizing and weight reduction can be achieved in motors by using a smaller size of magnet. For example, a single hybrid vehicle uses approximately 100 large and small motors, from the main drive motor to compact motors that slide the windows up and down. Motor downsizing not only improves resource efficiency but also contributes to reducing the weight of the vehicles, which in turn reduces CO2 emissions during manufacturing and usage. The neodymium magnets used in automobiles and in a wide range of other electric products therefore play an important role in achieving carbon neutrality.

■ Two researchers invented the neodymium magnet

Invention of the Neodymium magnet

The neodymium magnet was invented by Dr. Masato Sagawa and Dr. John J. Croat. When they started their respective research, the most powerful magnet then available was the samarium-cobalt (Sm-Co) magnet. Although the two scientists undertook their research independently, they both pursued the creation of a magnet made of iron (Fe), a much more abundant resource than cobalt. Their research projects resulted in two different methods of manufacturing the neodymium magnet, and in 1982, almost simultaneously, Dr. Sagawa presented his paper on the sintering process, and Dr. Croat presented his paper on the rapid solidification process.

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