Alerts Energy 18 June, 2024 7:30 am   

Molecular magnets from Kraków may help the West shed dependency on China

Sukiennice The main square with a view of Sukiennice in Kraków. Picture by Wikimedia Commons

Scientists at the Jagiellonian University have developed soft magnetic materials that could revolutionize the energy industry and make it independent of rare earth metals from China.

“At the Faculty of Chemistry of the Jagiellonian University (UJ), a universal method has been developed on the basis of which a wide range of molecular, soft magnetic materials can be created. In contrast to the technologies used across the world today, the compounds obtained by the method developed at UJ are resistant to high temperatures, which increases the potential for their use in various industrial sectors,” the Kraków University said. “This is an important discovery for at least two reasons. On the basis of the precursors described in the proprietary method, it is possible to create an extensive range of micromagnets with the participation of many readily available elements – not only metals considered to date as magnetically active elements. In practice, this means a low cost of technology implementation and at the same time independence from hard-to-reach and expensive metals, such as cobalt, nickel or rare earth metals, currently used for the production of magnetic materials,” the University explained.

“In addition, molecular magnets have potentially very broad applications in many sectors of the economy, from medicine and pharmacy, to space technology, electronics, storage media and energy, to quantum computers. Each innovation in the segment of molecular magnetics therefore gives considerable chances for technological progress in various areas of our lives,” the press release continues.

Rare earth metals are increasingly needed in modern technologies, including renewable energy. Meanwhile, their prices are rising and China is the dominant producer and holder of their extraction points. The same applies to the dependency on the Middle Kingdom in the renewables sector, where 80 percent of some components used in the West are supplied from that direction. The Critical Raw Materials Directive (CRMA) adopted by the European Union aims to reduce this dependence, diversify sources of supply and develop recycling.

The scientists from Kraków are waiting for business support. “At the present stage, the Jagiellonian University has ensured the technology is protected through patent applications in Poland and abroad. Now it is important to establish cooperation with entities from different industries that will decide to test and implement this innovation,” the University stated. “There are broad deployment opportunities in areas such as quantum computers, energy transformers, drug carriers, miniaturization of electronics, data carrier manufacturing, or in such sophisticated segments as magnetic sealing fluids used in space stations or satellites. At this stage, cooperation with industry is crucial, and the breadth of potential means that we are looking for partners to further develop this technology simultaneously in many industries and segments,” explained Dr Eng. Gabriela Konopka-Cupiał, Director of the UJ Technology Transfer Centre, CITTRU. Poles were the authors of innovative technologies such as graphene and perovskites, but they were developed outside Poland due to the lack of adequate state support.

Jagiellonian University / Wojciech Jakóbik