Using the Titan Supercomputer to find Alternatives to Rare Earth Magnets

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Simulations could uncover competitive substitutes for these super strong magnets

Simulations could uncover competitive substitutes for super strong magnets

Over at ORNL, Katie Elyce Jones writes that the US Department of Energy (DOE) is mining for alternatives to rare earth magnetic material, an obviously scarce resource. For manufacturers of electric motors and other devices, procuring these materials involves environmental concerns from mining rare earth metals, their costs, and an unpredictable supply chain.

To tackle this problem, researchers are using the hybrid CPU–GPU, 27-petaflop Titan supercomputer managed by the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility (OLCF) at DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) to discover alternative materials that can substitute for rare earths.

There is a strong desire to find new magnetic materials that are equally as useful as neodymium-based magnets but are cheaper or less dependent on a single supplier,” said ORNL’s Markus Eisenbach.

Bruce Harmon of Ames National Laboratory’s Division of Materials Science and Engineering is a project leader using Titan to create computational methods for exploring material structure and composition in non–rare earth permanent magnets.

We’re very much working in collaboration with experimentalists, but what we can’t do in experiment that we can simulate on Titan is the interaction among atoms,” Harmon said. “We can improve materials much faster if we know how atoms are interacting to generate strong magnetic moments.”

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