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INCT 2014: Rare-Earth Magnets Processing and Application for High-tech Industry

Grant number: 14/50887-4
Support type:Research Projects - Thematic Grants
Duration: July 01, 2017 - June 30, 2023
Field of knowledge:Engineering - Materials and Metallurgical Engineering
Cooperation agreement: CNPq - INCTs
Principal Investigator:Fernando Jose Gomes Landgraf
Home Institution: Escola Politécnica (EP). Universidade de São Paulo (USP). São Paulo, SP, Brazil


The proposition of the project INCT Rare-Earth magnets processing and applications for high-tech industry - PATRIA, that aims to develop the scientific and technological support foundations for the productive chain of rare earth magnets in Brazil, has both strategic and economical approach. From a strategic standpoint, this has been a recurring theme in several forums, being inserted into documents of public policies, such as the National Mining Plan 2030 (PNM-2030, MME, 2011), the National Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation (ENCTI, MCTI, 2011) and the Greater Brazil Plan (PBM I Mining, MOIC I ABOI, 2012). In parallel, several studies were conducted by ABOI (2011) and CGEE (2013) and by special committees in the Brazilian Senate (2013) as well as in the House of Representatives, resulting in recommendations on the need to develop the productive chain of rare earths in Brazil. Furthermore, recent data from ONPM reveals that the potential reserves of rare earths in Brazil is as significant as China, the current world's largest producer. From an economic standpoint, it is noteworthy there were numerous meetings at BNDES, with participation of mining companies that may process rare earths out of by-products from their operations, as well as companies that use rare earths to produce their final products, such of magnets and catalysts. From then on, a preliminary arrangement of partnership between companies and the government sectors is being formatted, in order to establish in the near future a productive chain of rare earths in this country. The current crisis in the supply of rare earth occurs precisely at a time of growing demand for these elements in the high tech industry, which is barred by the Chinese policy of export quotas, increasing uncertainty over supply disruptions of these elements, hindering the adoption the technologies based thereon. In order to reverse this situation, the search for alternative sources of rare earths is seen a priority and strategic move by several countries that apply these elements in their industry. The global market for super-magnets based on rare earths is estimated at about 75,000 tons/year, representing more than US$ 7 billion. Moreover, the applications dependent of super-magnets move globally hundreds of billions of dollars. In these application fields, the ones related to the generation of clean energy, especially wind, represent the largest growth. In Brazil, the growth plans of the wind farm, currently at about 2.8 GW, is pointed out in 8.7 GW for 2017, and the main companies in the domestic market, such as IMPSA, WEG and Wobben employ technology based on rare-earth magnets. This capacity represents only 2.6% of the estimated potential for Brazilian wind power generation (about 300 GW), which indicates ample future growth of the consumer market for wind turbines and, consequently, for rare-earth magnets. The domestic market is expected to reach, in the short term, demand of at least 1,000 tons per year of such magnets, evolving to 2,000-3,000 tons per year in the medium term (10 years). In this context, the technological mastery of all stages of the production chain from the processes of mineral concentration up to the fabrication of the magnet itself is crucial for establishing business initiatives in this production chain. The project of establishing a INCT as "PATRIA- Rare-Earth Magnets Processing and Applications for High Technology Industry" is of essential importance, since it proposes to create the foundations for research and training of human resources to support the development of necessary technologies for this production chain, establishing a network of knowledge based in institutions with recognized expertise in national and international scene. This project has scope for activities in each stage of the production chain, divided into macroareas of technology such as mineral processing, involving concentration and separation of rare-earth oxides, metallurgy and alloy fabrication for magnets (Nd-Fe-B), technologies of magnets processing and characterization of magnetic properties, corrosion evaluation and protection, advanced machining and electrical machine design. This proposal will meet a strategic demand for the country in the field of the new economy, based on renewable energy with low impact of carbon generation. To accomplish this, the agreed initiative is to develop the competence existing in the country in academic level to a semi-pilot manufacturing level by means of an INCT, by identifying the conditions to be satisfied for technology transfer and its efficient incorporation in the industrial sector. Nevertheless, the pursuit of technological mastery will only be effective and sustainable if the scientific development is also incorporated in the research lines INCT. In this regard, it is intended, under the named project, to address issues concerning the state-of-the-art of the various stages of the production chain, especially on aspects of sustainability, environmental impact reduction, critical dependence on heavy rare earths (Dy, Tb), recycling, processing and manufacturing technologies. The PATRIA INCT main result is to be acknowledged by the Brazilian society for being a reference in scientific and technological development and training of human resources; for its contribution to Brazilian industry in seeking complete solutions for processes, products and innovative business; and for supporting, with base of science and technology, the competitive and sustainable development of the Brazilian productive chain of rare earths magnets. Additionally, the creation of INCT proposed here serve as a consolidating factor in the country, acting as one of the poles/active countries in the supply chain of rare earths and their products. (AU)