Rare earth elements are critical materials that are largely depended by many technologies ranging from electric vehicles to wind turbines. Although these materials are abundantly available, it is expensive and also difficult to obtain.
Scientists have now found an alternative method to create nanoparticles which could possibly be used in the place of certain rare-earth materials, and at the same time could help guarantee a steady supply of products that are heavily relied by scores of people. The researchers have reported their findings in ACS' journal Chemistry of Materials.
The unique properties of rare-earth elements make them suitable for a wide range of applications. For instance, neodymium is a rare-earth element that is used for making the world's most powerful magnets. Although these magnets are somewhat powerful to be used in refrigerators, they are integrated into wind turbines, power windows, and computer disk drives. The major challenge lies in mining and processing these rare earths, whose rates can increase quickly in a short span of time. Since rare-earth materials are in constant demand, Alberto López-Ortega, Claudio Sangregorio and colleagues initiated a study to find a suitable replacement for such powerful magnets.
Using a one-step synthetic method, the team used a combination of iron-cobalt oleate complex to create magnetic core-shell nanoparticles. The materials, thus obtained, exhibited strong energy-storing capabilities and magnetic properties.
The researchers believe that this technique could provide an efficient means for substituting rare earths in permanent magnets and at the same time could keep the costs relatively stable.