MINNEAPOLIS—Niron Magnetics reported that it raised $21.3 million in new financing that the company will use to build a pilot production facility in Minnesota and accelerate the development of its Clean Earth Magnet™ technology. The Volvo Cars Tech Fund and Volta Energy Technologies joined existing investors Anzu Partners and the University of Minnesota in the funding, according to a release from Niron Magnetics.
The surging global demand for electric vehicles (EVs) and other motorized devices has exposed a worldwide dependency on the unsustainably-produced rare earth materials that are currently required for magnets used in electric drivetrains and motors. Niron Magnetics is working to commercialize high-performance permanent magnets that are free of these rare earth materials, the company said in the release.
Toward this end, Niron is developing an advanced manufacturing process for mass production of permanent magnets powered by its unique material formulation. Niron’s Clean Earth Magnet™ technology, developed from a decade of research, is said to leverage materials science innovations to eliminate the need for rare earth content in magnets.
Instead, Niron uses some of the most common elements on earth—iron and nitrogen—to deliver better performance and lower costs. Niron’s technology delivers magnets that are said to be less expensive, more sustainable, globally available, and made from abundant input materials that are not subject to supply constraints or price instability. The company’s production process is reported to be up to 95 percent less damaging across certain environmental impacts than alternatives, as its input materials require no toxic mining and refining.
“The demand for more sustainable vehicles, power generation, and electronic devices should be met with innovation in the magnets that drive these technologies, rather than increasing the mining for rare earth materials,” said Andy Blackburn, CEO of Niron Magnetics, in the release. “This new funding from investors like Volta Energy Technologies and Volvo Cars Tech Fund shows that there is strong global interest in making our unique Clean Earth Magnet™ technology widely available.”
The first generation of Niron’s Clean Earth Magnet™ will offer a magnetic field strength of approximately 0.9 Tesla and will address a wide range of applications from audio speakers, magnetic sensors, and consumer appliances to industrial motors and automotive accessory motors. The company’s second-generation magnet will offer a magnetic field strength of 1.5 Tesla and will address high operating temperatures and higher torque density applications, including electric vehicle drivetrains and wind turbines, Niron said in the release.
“Volta is excited to be invested in Niron Magnetics as the company introduces their rare-earth-free permanent magnets for use in electric motors,” said Jeff Chamberlain, CEO of Volta Energy Technologies, in the release. “Such innovative technology is vitally important to enable the adoption of both electric vehicles and renewable energy from wind, without reliance on rare earth minerals. Niron complements Volta’s growing portfolio of technology companies that can improve the performance and reduce the cost of electric vehicles and renewable power.”
“By investing in the technological advancements happening at Niron, we are able to help build a more sustainable electric economy from the inside out,” said Pratik Budhdev, global investment director of Volvo Cars Tech Fund, in the release. “We look forward to working with the team to further enhance their roadmap of rare-earth free magnets that can help make a low carbon economy more accessible.”
Niron will begin sampling in limited quantity to selected partners, who can collaborate closely with Niron to design the magnets into suitable high-volume applications, the company said.
Niron participates in a U.S. Department of Energy funded project that aims to develop more cost effective and sustainable drivetrains for electric vehicles. Its proprietary Clean Earth Magnet technology, based on iron nitride, enables magnets that are said to possess inherently higher magnetization. The magnets can be produced at a lower cost versus today’s rare-earth magnets and, according to Niron, “will enable a revolution in the design of new electric motors and generators.”