With the rapid development of the rare earth permanent magnet motor industry, the demand for neodymium iron boron magnets has significantly increased in electric vehicles, wind power generation, and electronic equipment. However, some of the raw materials required to manufacture neodymium magnets are not only scarce, but also expensive, so the cost of neodymium magnet is always high.
Neodymium iron boron magnets generally contain about 30% praseodymium neodymium, 1%~2% dysprosium and other rare earth elements. These raw materials have relatively limited reserves on Earth, coupled with complex and costly extraction and extraction processes, resulting in consistently high prices.
Specifically, lanthanum and cerium account for the vast majority of rare earth resources, exceeding 70%, while praseodymium and neodymium account for about 20%, and the proportion of medium and heavy rare earth elements is less than 10%. At present, due to the widespread use of neodymium magnets, the demand for praseodymium and neodymium, two rare earth elements, is also increasing. In contrast, lanthanum and cerium, two high abundance rare earth elements, are facing the problem of excessive accumulation.
As the world’s largest producer of rare earths, China’s annual production of approximately 10000 tons of lanthanum and cerium is not effectively utilized, leading to sustained low prices of cerium. Therefore, there is an urgent need to develop new technologies and products to address this supply-demand imbalance.
In addition, due to economic and political influences, the price of Pr-Nd alloy fluctuates greatly. This not only brings enormous economic pressure to the manufacturers of neodymium magnets, but also limits their application in a wider range of fields. Faced with such challenges, scientists and engineers have begun to search for alternative solutions to reduce costs while maintaining magnetic performance.
Under the influence of multiple factors, cerium magnets were born. As a rare earth element with abundant reserves and low cost, cerium has become the best material to replace some neodymium. By precisely controlling the alloy composition and process flow, researchers have successfully developed a new type of permanent magnet material, cerium magnet. This type of magnet maintains high magnetic properties while significantly reducing production costs by partially replacing neodymium with cerium.
The characteristics of cerium magnets
1. Medium performance:
Cerium magnets, as a medium performance permanent magnet material, fill the gap between high-performance neodymium magnets and low performance ferrite in permanent magnet materials. This provides buyers with more choices. At present, most neodymium magnets with grades N35-N42 on the market are made with cerium added.
2.Reduce production costs:
At present, the market price of Pr-Nd alloy is 500000 CNY/metric ton, while cerium is 25000 CNY/metric ton, which is only about 5% of price of Pr-Nd alloy. Using cheap cerium to replace Pr-Nd alloy can significantly reduce product costs and have higher cost-effectiveness.
3. Deterioration of magnetic properties:
Although cerium can partially replace the use of praseodymium neodymium, it inevitably leads to a decrease in the remanence and coercivity of neodymium magnets. When the amount of cerium added is relatively small, the impact on the performance of the magnet can be ignored. When the amount of cerium added exceeds 12%, the microstructure of the magnet deteriorates more severely, significantly reducing the magnetic properties and temperature resistance of the magnet.
4. High processing difficulty:
Due to the higher activity of cerium compared to praseodymium neodymium, higher requirements are placed on anti oxidation during the preparation process, requiring the use of vacuum equipment during processing. The addition of cerium element makes neodymium magnets more brittle and harder, which is prone to fracture and damage during processing, reducing the yield rate.
In the initial stage of large-scale production, cerium magnets are mainly used in magnetic adsorption related products, such as toy magnets, magnetic buckles, and magnetic separation equipment.
With the continuous development of grain boundary diffusion technology and other manufacturing processes, cerium magnets have gradually overcome past technological barriers and their performance has been significantly enhanced. However, based on current technological capabilities, cerium magnets are far from being able to replace high-performance neodymium magnets.
At present, some cerium magnets can reach high-performance levels such as N45H, N48M, and N52, and their product applications have expanded to the fields of electroacoustics, mobile intelligent terminals, wind power, and nuclear magnetic resonance. The 38M-38H grade cerium magnets are widely used in wheel hub motors of electric bicycles, demonstrating their broad application potential and market prospects.
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