The energy transition will lead to a very strong growth in the demand for rare earths (RE) over the next decade, especially for the elements (Nd, Pr) and (Dy, Tb). These RE, classified as critical materials, are used almost exclusively to produce NdFeB permanent magnets, and constitute 30% of their mass.
Several recent international studies, aiming to identify new alloys with low RE content and comparable performances to the dense magnetic phase Nd2Fe14B, put hard magnetic compounds of RE-Fe12 type as advantageous substitution solutions, allowing to reduce more that 35% of the amount of RE, while keeping the intrinsic magnetic properties close to those of the Nd2Fe14B composition.
The industrial developments of the RE-Fe12 alloys cannot yet be considered due to the important technological and scientific challenge that remain to be lifted in order to be able to produce dense magnets with resistance to demagnetization sufficient for current applications (coercivity Hc > 800 kA/m).
The aim of the post-doctoral work is to develop Nd-Fe12 based alloys with optimized intrinsic magnetic properties and to master the sintering of the powders in order to obtain dense magnets with coercivity beyond 800 kA/m, to fulfil the requirements of the applications in electric mobility. Two technological and scientific challenges are identified:
- understanding of the role of secondary phases on the coercivity. This will open the way to the implementation of techniques called "grain boundary engineering", well known for the NdFeB magnets to have remarkably improved the resistance to demagnetization.
- mastering the sintering step of these powders at low temperature (< 600°C) in order to avoid the decomposotion of the magnetic phase by grain boundary engineering