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Thread: History of the

  1. #1
    Senior Member remusr's Avatar
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    Dec 2005
    Lethbridge, AB

    History of the

    History of Permanent Magnets
    The history of permanent magnets goes back to ancient times. Records from early Greek, Roman and Chinese civilisations make reference to rare and mysterious stones called lodestones. These lodestones could attract each other and also small pieces of iron in what seemed a magical way and when suspended from a thread, they always pointed in the same direction. We now know that lodestones contain magnetite, an oxide of iron and that they are a naturally occurring magnet having the composition Fe3O4.
    Although lodestones were considered an intriguing phenomenon by scientists of the day, they were not really utilised in any constructive way until around 1200 AD with the introduction of the mariners (magnetic) compass. The mariners compass is a device housing a pivoting magnetised needle, which freely and consistently points towards magnetic north. This enables travellers to consistently and safely navigate their way from one place to another.
    Many exciting discoveries involving magnets and relating to electricity have been made over the 800 years since the invention of the mariners (magnetic) compass, however strong permanent magnets as we know them today, are only a very recent invention.
    You may think that we would have to go back 150 or even 200 years to look at the development of strong permanent magnets, but that is just not the case. In actual fact the history of magnets as we know them today only goes back as far as 1940.
    Modern research into magnetism is heading in many different directions involving a vast array of materials, however at this time there are only four types of magnets that are commonly used throughout the world. They are Alnico, Ferrite, Samarium Cobalt and the most recently invented, Neodymium Iron Boron.
    Alnico Magnets
    The first in our group of modern magnets was Alnico. These magnets came onto the scene in the 1940’s and they started a revolution in the use of permanent magnets. For the first time it was now possible to replace electro magnets with permanent (Alnico) magnets. This provided a design flexibility that had previously been unthinkable. They were used in devises such as generators, electric motors, microphones and loud speakers just to name a few.
    Alnico magnets are made from Aluminium, Nickel and Cobalt. They have an excellent temperature tolerance of up to 550o C and are relatively corrosion resistant. Alnico’s biggest downfall is its poor resistance to demagnetisation. This instability sometimes makes Alnico unsuitable for certain demanding engineering requirements. Although they are still widely used today, Alnico Magnets are gradually becoming priced out of the market with the availability of newer, high tech and lower priced magnets that are now common place.
    Ferrite Magnets
    In the early to mid 1950’s came the creation of Ferrite magnets. Often referred to as ceramic magnets, Ferrites quickly became the preferred choice over Alnico due to their low cost and their strong resistance to demagnetisation. The availability of Ferrite magnets rapidly increased the momentum in the abundance of inventions and improvements to existing products using magnets. Ferrite magnets are used in all manner of products including electronic sensing devices, electric motors, loud speakers, lifting devices, magnetic separators etc.
    Ferrite magnets are low cost and they have excellent corrosion resistance. They are very hard and as such they are very brittle. This also makes them difficult to machine or drill holes. They have a very good temperature tolerance with relative magnetic stability at temperatures of up to 250o C.
    Samarium Cobalt Magnets
    1970 saw the entrance of Samarium Cobalt magnets (Sm-Co) into the market place. In a similar way that Ferrite and Alnico magnets had done before, Samarium Cobalt magnets brought a whole range of new characteristics, applications and possibilities to the industry.
    Samarium Cobalt magnets have several features that made them far superior to any magnet previously seen. They have a magnetic strength that is several times greater than either Alnico or Ferrite magnets, while at the same time they offer a very high temperature stability. Temperatures of 300o C are seen as no problem for Samarium Cobalt magnets and in addition to this they also demonstrate excellent corrosion resistance. The two disadvantages of Samarium Cobalt magnets are that they are very brittle and therefore extremely fragile and they are a very expensive magnet to produce.
    Samarium Cobalt magnets properties make them a perfect choice for high strength and high temperature applications such as stepper motors and furnace sensors etc. Their corrosion resistance opens up numerous opportunities in marine environments and also in chemical industries.
    Neodymium Iron Boron Magnets
    1983 saw the discovery of Neodymium Iron Boron Magnets (NdFeB). The invention of this new magnet was announced almost simultaneously by two separate companies, (General Motors and Sumitomo Special Metals) who were working independently of each other on very different production methods of a very similar product.
    This announcement created a huge amount of interest as magnet technology had now taken another leap forward to produce an entirely new magnetic material. Neodymium Iron Boron Magnets, or “Rare Earth” magnets as they are more commonly known, are even stronger than Samarium Cobalt magnets and their manufacturing process is considerably cheaper, therefore providing the market with an incredibly strong, but cost effective product. Unfortunately Rare Earth magnets do have two disadvantages. They have poor corrosion resistance and they are more temperature sensitive than other magnets. However new high temperature tolerant grades of Rare Earth magnets are being created and released on a regular basis. Rare Earth magnets offer high magnetic energy and good stability making them the logical choice for many electronics and engineering projects.
    Rare Earth magnets are used in all manner of ways in almost every sector of the magnetics industry such as mining, health, construction, electronics, education and the food industry. They have become the industry standard when size, strength and efficiency are required.
    Research and Development
    Since the discovery of Neodymium Iron Boron Magnets there has been countless hours of research and development throughout the world in the never ending pursuit to produce even stronger magnets with better corrosion resistance and with a higher temperature capacity. Unfortunately this research has so far not resulted in any significant announcements that have changed, added to, or further enhanced the history of magnets.

  2. #2
    Senior Member
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    Dec 2005
    Southern California, Orange County, Huntington Beach
    nice information, also i believe demagnetisation for these magnets (aside from temperatures), for alcino magnets regarding speakers anyway is through putting alot of power through it over a good long amount of time? and ferrite would come from dropping the magnet, or some force hitting it. Correct me if im wrong?
    Young, but i love speakers!

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  4. #4
    Senior Member Ducatista47's Avatar
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    Jul 2005
    Peoria, Illinois
    Very interesting information. I had never seen the time frames of these discoveries and thought them quite different. I had also assumed new materials were being developed all the time.

    Here is another post about demag, this one from Greg Timbers.

    Clark in Peoria
    Information is not Knowledge; Knowledge is not Wisdom
    Too many audiophiles listen with their eyes instead of their ears

  5. #5
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    Sep 2006
    San Jose
    GM has developed a magnet (it may be one of the above) for use in PM starters and Porter Cable advertised it in the motors of it's power tools. I can't remember GM's name for it I think it may be "magnequinch III) or some such and I've never heard a generic name for it but you would know it if you ran across it as they have to seal it in foil because it's hygroscopic and as it takes on moisture it grows and because it's very brittle as it grows it fractures but I've heard such claims for it that I can't imagine why I've only heard of it in Delco PM starters and Porter Cable cordless power tools.
    I did a little digging and found this. I think it's probably interesting, but maybe only to someone who understands it more than I do. I find it interesting because I've never heard of these people relating to speakers and I know that they either are or were on the cutting edge of new magnetic materials.

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