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How Strong Are Rare Earth Magnets?



rare earth magnets

How Strong Are Rare Earth Magnets?

Magnets are an integral part of many technologies and appliances in the 21st century.

From tiny fridge magnets that hold to-do lists to powerful ones that create magnetic fields for electricity generation from wind turbines, there are many different types of magnets.

The world’s strongest magnets, also known as rare earth magnets, are made by alloying certain rare earth elements with other materials.

But just how strong are rare earth magnets, and what makes them so powerful?

Measuring Magnet Strength

The above infographic uses data from First4Magnets to compare the strength of magnets. But before looking at the strongest magnets, it’s essential to understand how to measure magnetic strength.

The maximum energy product, measured in mega-gauss-oersteds (MGOe), is one of the primary indicators of magnetic strength. It is a multiplication of two measurements: a magnet’s remanence and its coercivity.

  • Remanence:
    To become magnets, ferromagnetic substances need to enter the magnetic field of an existing magnet. Remanence, measured in Gauss, is the magnetism left in the magnet after removing the external magnetic field.
  • Coercivity:
    Coercivity is the energy required to bring a magnetic material’s magnetism down to zero. Measured in oersteds, it essentially captures the magnetic material’s resistance to demagnetization.

The Strength of Rare Earth Magnets

Each magnet has a grade, which typically denotes its strength. For example, a neodymium magnet of grade N42 has a strength of 42MGOe.

To put the power of two common rare earth magnet grades into perspective, here’s how their strength compares with common grades of other permanent magnets:

Magnet (Grade)CompositionMaximum Energy Product (MGOe)
Neodymium (N42)Neodymium, iron, boron42
Samarium Cobalt (SmCo 2:17)Samarium, cobalt28
Alnico (Alnico-5)Iron, aluminum, nickel, cobalt5.5
Ferrite (Ferrite-8)Ceramics, iron oxide3.5
Magnetic rubber (Grade Y)Strontium or barium, synthetic rubber, PVC0.8

Note: While the N42 neodymium magnet is used more commonly, the strongest available magnet is of grade N52.

Neodymium and samarium—two of the 17 rare earth elements—are ferromagnetic, meaning that they have inherent magnetic properties and can be magnetized. These metals are first mined, refined, and then combined with materials like iron, boron, and/or cobalt to make the strongest magnetic alloys.

Neodymium magnets are typically composed of one-third neodymium, along with iron and boron. Some of the neodymium in magnets can be replaced with praseodymium, another rare earth material. For this reason, neodymium magnets are also known as NdPr magnets.

Due to their strength, neodymium magnets have found their way into various technologies, from phones and laptops to motors in electric vehicles. In fact, according to Adamas Intelligence, 90% of all EV motors use NdPr magnets. Because these magnets also offer relatively high strength for a smaller size, they are also the predominant choice for wind turbines, reducing turbine weight significantly.

Samarium-cobalt magnets exhibit exceptional resistance to extreme temperatures. These magnets can operate from temperatures as low as -270℃ up to 350℃ and are also highly resistant to corrosion. Consequently, they have important applications in harsh marine environments and technologies with high operating temperatures.

The Demand for Neodymium Magnets

Global EV sales more than doubled last year, up from around 3 million cars in 2020 to 6.6 million in 2021. Similarly, renewable energy is expanding at a record pace, with capacity installations in 2022 set to break the record set the previous year.

With that in mind, it’s no surprise that the demand for rare earth magnets is expected to increase. Neodymium magnet consumption is forecasted to grow from more than 100,000 tonnes in 2020 to 300,000 tonnes by 2035, with EVs and wind turbines driving growth.

However, the supply chain of neodymium magnets remains a concern with China controlling the majority of rare earth extraction, refining, and downstream magnet production.

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Technology Metals

Why Copper Is a Critical Mineral

From the electrical grid to EVs, copper is a key building block for the modern economy.



why copper is a critical mineral

Why Copper is a Critical Mineral

Copper is critical for everything from the electrical grid to electric vehicles and renewable energy technologies.

But despite copper’s indispensable role in the modern economy, it is not on the U.S. Critical Minerals list.

This infographic from the Copper Development Association shows what makes copper critical, and why it should be an officially designated Critical Mineral.

Copper’s Role in the Economy

Besides clean energy technologies, several industries including construction, infrastructure, and defense use copper for its unique properties.

For example, copper is used in pipes and water service lines due to its resistance to corrosion and durable nature. As the Biden Administration plans to replace all of America’s lead water pipes, copper pipes are the best long-term solution.

Copper’s high electrical conductivity makes it the material of choice for electric wires and cables. Therefore, it is an important part of energy technologies like wind farms, solar panels, lithium-ion batteries, and the grid. The demand for copper from these technologies is projected to grow over the next decade:

Energy TechnologyAnnual Copper Demand Growth (2021-2035P)Use of Copper
Offshore wind23.3%Undersea cables, generators, transformers
Battery storage21.8%Transformers, wiring
Automotive*14.0%Batteries, motors, charging infrastructure
Solar PV11.9%Wiring, heat exchangers
Onshore wind9.8%Cabling, transformers, substations
Electrical transmission7.2%Transformers, cables, circuit breakers
Electrical distribution2.7%Transformers, cables, circuit breakers

*excludes internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles.

Furthermore, policies like the Inflation Reduction Act and Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will bolster copper demand through energy and infrastructure investments.

Given its vital role in numerous technologies, why is copper not on the U.S. Critical Minerals list?

Copper and the Critical Minerals List

The USGS defines a Critical Mineral as having three components, and copper meets each one:

  1. It is essential to economic and national security.
  2. It plays a key role in energy technology, defense, consumer electronics, and other applications.
  3. Its supply chain is vulnerable to disruption.

In addition, copper ore grades are falling globally, from an average of 2% in 1900 to 1% in 2000 and a projected 0.5% in 2030, according to BloombergNEF. As grades continue falling, copper mining could become less economical in certain regions, posing a risk to future supply.

The current USGS list of Critical Minerals, which does not include copper, is based on supply risk scores that use data from 2015 to 2018. According to an analysis by the Copper Development Association using the USGS’ methodology, new data shows that copper meets the USGS’ supply risk score cutoff for inclusion on the Critical Minerals list.

Despite not being on the official list, copper is beyond critical. Its inclusion on the official Critical Minerals list will allow for streamlined regulations and faster development of new supply sources.

The Copper Development Association (CDA) brings the value of copper and its alloys to society, to address the challenges of today and tomorrow. Click here to learn more about why copper should be an official critical mineral.

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Visualizing 25 Years of Lithium Production, by Country

Lithium production has grown exponentially over the last few decades. Which countries produce the most lithium, and how has this mix evolved?



lithium production

Lithium Production by Country (1995-2021)

Lithium is often dubbed as “white gold” for electric vehicles.

The lightweight metal plays a key role in the cathodes of all types of lithium-ion batteries that power EVs. Accordingly, the recent rise in EV adoption has sent lithium production to new highs.

The above infographic charts more than 25 years of lithium production by country from 1995 to 2021, based on data from BP’s Statistical Review of World Energy.

The Largest Lithium Producers Over Time

In the 1990s, the U.S. was the largest producer of lithium, in stark contrast to the present.

In fact, the U.S. accounted for over one-third of global lithium production in 1995. From then onwards until 2010, Chile took over as the biggest producer with a production boom in the Salar de Atacama, one of the world’s richest lithium brine deposits.

Global lithium production surpassed 100,000 tonnes for the first time in 2021, quadrupling from 2010. What’s more, roughly 90% of it came from just three countries.

RankCountry2021 Production (tonnes)% of Total
#1Australia 🇦🇺55,41652%
#2Chile 🇨🇱26,00025%
#3China 🇨🇳14,00013%
#4Argentina 🇦🇷5,9676%
#5Brazil 🇧🇷1,5001%
#6Zimbabwe 🇿🇼1,2001%
#7Portugal 🇵🇹9001%
#8United States 🇺🇸9001%
Rest of World 🌍1020.1%

Australia alone produces 52% of the world’s lithium. Unlike Chile, where lithium is extracted from brines, Australian lithium comes from hard-rock mines for the mineral spodumene.

China, the third-largest producer, has a strong foothold in the lithium supply chain. Alongside developing domestic mines, Chinese companies have acquired around $5.6 billion worth of lithium assets in countries like Chile, Canada, and Australia over the last decade. It also hosts 60% of the world’s lithium refining capacity for batteries.

Batteries have been one of the primary drivers of the exponential increase in lithium production. But how much lithium do batteries use, and how much goes into other uses?

What is Lithium Used For?

While lithium is best known for its role in rechargeable batteries—and rightly so—it has many other important uses.

Before EVs and lithium-ion batteries transformed the demand for lithium, the metal’s end-uses looked completely different as compared to today.

End-useLithium Consumption 2010 (%)Lithium Consumption 2021 (%)
Ceramics and glass31%14%
Lubricating greases10%3%
Air treatment5%1%
Continuous casting4%2%

In 2010, ceramics and glass accounted for the largest share of lithium consumption at 31%. In ceramics and glassware, lithium carbonate increases strength and reduces thermal expansion, which is often essential for modern glass-ceramic cooktops.

Lithium is also used to make lubricant greases for the transport, steel, and aviation industries, along with other lesser-known uses.

The Future of Lithium Production

As the world produces more batteries and EVs, the demand for lithium is projected to reach 1.5 million tonnes of lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE) by 2025 and over 3 million tonnes by 2030.

For context, the world produced 540,000 tonnes of LCE in 2021. Based on the above demand projections, production needs to triple by 2025 and increase nearly six-fold by 2030.

Although supply has been on an exponential growth trajectory, it can take anywhere from six to more than 15 years for new lithium projects to come online. As a result, the lithium market is projected to be in a deficit for the next few years.

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