Microscopic image of magnetic domains: they form patchwork-like patterns in different shades of gray.
© Funktionale Materialien, TU Darmstadt

Transregio goes into second funding period

New magnets for sustainable energy technologies

  • von Birte Vierjahn
  • 24.11.2023

Super-strong permanent magnets for wind turbines or materials for magnetic cooling - both are crucial for a successful energy transition: New, optimized functional materials are the cornerstones of a low-emission future. The collaborative research center "HoMMage*" has already been located at TU Darmstadt and the University of Duisburg-Essen for four years. From January 2024, it will be funded by the German Research Foundation for a further four years.

Powerful, durable and efficient permanent magnets are core components in wind turbines, electric cars and in the field of robotics. Scientists in the Collaborative Research Centre/Transregio "HoMMage" – many of them from the University of Duisburg-Essen (UDE) – are researching new, optimized magnetic materials. After all, a permanent magnet in an electric motor that is just two percent more efficient can increase the vehicle's range by 20 km.

The second focus of the research network is magnetocaloric materials: these change their temperature depending on the external magnetic field applied. Used smartly, they operate refrigerators and air conditioning systems highly efficiently without the need for climate-damaging coolants. In the future, magnetic cooling can also be used to liquefy the energy carrier hydrogen, making it suitable for transportation and storage.

Efficient magnetic materials are crucial in all of the technologies mentioned, but they often contain rare earths: raw materials that are temporarily unavailable due to political circumstances – therefore expensive – and usually harmful to the environment. "The scientists at HoMMage are researching and developing new materials that are both resource-saving and efficient – preferably without any rare earths. With this project, UDE and its partners are making an important contribution to increasing the efficiency of renewable energies such as wind power and also to their use in the growing field of electromobility – an essential prerequisite for the success of the energy transition," says Prof. Dr. Astrid Westendorf, UDE Vice-Rector for Research and Early-Career Researchers.

To this end, the researchers are developing new manufacturing processes by not only manipulating individual atoms, but also by deforming and reshaping entire workpieces. To predict successful material compositions and suitable, resource-saving production methods as accurately as possible and to avoid dead ends, the consortium is increasingly relying on technologies such as machine learning and additive manufacturing in the second funding period. "At UDE, we analyze the atomic structure of magnetic materials using state-of-the-art physical methods in experiment and theory from the nanoscale to the macroscopic component. We also use additive manufacturing for the production of prototype materials," explains Prof. Dr. Michael Farle, HoMMage’s Co-Speaker at UDE.

HoMMage is a research network under the leadership of TU Darmstadt (Prof. Dr. Oliver Gutfleisch). Further cooperation partners are the Max Planck Institute for Iron Research Düsseldorf, the Ernst Ruska Centre for Microscopy and Spectroscopy with Electrons at the Forschungszentrum Jülich and the University of Wuppertal.

* Hysteresis design of magnetic materials for efficient energy conversion

Image: Insight into the material – magnetic domains under the microscope. The scale shows the length of 50 micrometers, which corresponds to 0.05 millimeters.
(published in
Ener et al., Acta Materialia 214, 116968 (2021)).

Further Information:
Prof. Dr. Michael Farle, Co-Speaker CRC/TRR 270 at UDE, +49 203/37 9-2075, michael.farle@uni-due.de

Dr.-Ing. Sonja Laubach, TU Darmstadt, +49 6151/16-22153, sonja.laubach@tu-darmstadt.de
Birte Vierjahn, UDE, +49 203/37 9-2427, birte.vierjahn@uni-due.de

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