A group of investors contributed US$33 million to a Minnesota-based company producing magnets free of costly rare earth elements historically needed for their production like neodymium.
On Wednesday, Niron Magnetics said it received funding from Stellantis (NYSE: STLA), General Motors (NYSE: GM), the University of Minnesota, the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux tribe and other unnamed investors. Niron says the funds will enable the company to expand its pilot production facilities and enhance its manufacturing capacity.
The Clean Earth Magnet developed by the company is iron nitride-based, which Niron says is more environmentally sustainable than magnets produced with rare earth metals. Iron nitrides have been researched as a potential alternative to using neodymium and praseodymium to produce permanent magnets in recent years.
The most widely used permanent magnets use those rare earth metals combined with iron and boron. Small quantities of terbium and dysprosium may also be added for heat resistance. Niron says its magnet has improved temperature stability compared to rare earth magnets on the market, which it says is essential for automotive use.
“Niron’s Clean Earth Magnet could help GM make more affordable electric vehicles for its customers out of more abundant materials,” said Anirvan Coomer, President of GM Ventures. Magnets are an essential component in different automobile parts.
Time Magazine recognized the product as being one of the top 200 best inventions of 2023. The Volvo Group (STO: VOLV-B) also invested an unspecified amount of money in the company in 2021 as part of a US$21.3 million sum received by Niron.
“Making powerful magnets from plentiful commodity materials decouples new production from rare earth mine development and lowers overall environmental impact,” said Adam Bazih, Managing Partner at Stellantis.
Rare earth elements are utilized in the production of magnets more than any other commodity.
The process of removing radioactive elements like thorium and uranium from rare earths is one of the notable costs associated with their refining process. Niron says there is far superior price stability associated with production of its Clean Earth Magnet in comparison to magnets with rare earths.
The United States primarily relies on China for rare earth metals as the country produces the vast majority of them.
Rare earth elements are utilized in glass and ceramics, battery alloys, wind turbines, cellular phones, computers, televisions and an assortment of other electronics as well.