Since their relatively recent appearance on the commercial scene, rare-earth magnets have made quite a splash in the public imagination. The amount of magnetic energy packed into these tiny, shiny objects has led to technological leaps that weren’t possible before they came along, like the vibration motors in cell phones, or the tiny speakers in earbuds and hearing aids. And that’s not to mention the motors in electric vehicles and the generators in wind turbines, along with countless medical, military, and scientific uses.
These advances come at a cost, though, as the rare earth elements needed to make them are getting harder to come by. It’s not that rare earth elements like neodymium are all that rare geologically; rather, deposits are unevenly distributed, making it easy for the metals to become pawns in a neverending geopolitical chess game. What’s more, extracting them from their ores is a tricky business in an era of increased sensitivity to environmental considerations.
Luckily, there’s more than one way to make a magnet, and it may soon be possible to build permanent magnets as strong as neodymium magnets, but without any rare earth metals. In fact, the only thing needed to make them is iron and nitrogen, plus an understanding of crystal structure and some engineering ingenuity.
Continue reading “Iron Nitrides: Powerful Magnets Without The Rare Earth Elements”
Electric vehicles have become a mainstay in the global automotive marketplace, taking on their gasoline rivals and steadily chewing out their own slice of market share, year after year. Government mandates to end the sale of polluting internal combustion engine vehicles and subsidies on cleaner cars promise to conspire to create an electric vehicle boom.
The result should be much cleaner air, as generating electricity in even the dirtiest power plants is far cleaner and more efficient than millions of individual engines puttering about the place. However, if the electric car is to reign supreme, they’ll need to be built in ever greater numbers. To do that is going to take huge amounts of certain materials that can be expensive and sometimes in very limited supply. Thus, to help support the EV boom, recycling of these materials may come to play a very important role.
Continue reading “Recycling Will Be Key To The Electric Vehicle Future”
Electric motors are easy to make; remember those experiments with wire-wrapped nails? But what’s easy to make is often hard to engineer, and making a motor that’s small, light, and powerful can be difficult. [Carl Bugeja] however is not one to back down from a challenge, and his tiny “jigsaw” PCB motor is the latest result of his motor-building experiments.
We’re used to seeing brushless PCB motors from [Carl], but mainly of the axial-flux variety, wherein the stator coils are arranged so their magnetic lines of force are parallel to the motor’s shaft – his tiny PCB motors are a great example of this geometry. While those can be completely printed, they’re far from optimal. So, [Carl] started looking at ways to make a radial-flux PCB motor. His design has six six-layer PCB coils soldered perpendicular to a hexagonal end plate. The end plate has traces to connect the coils in a star configuration, and together with a matching top plate, they provide support for tiny bearings. The rotor meanwhile is a 3D-printed cube with press-fit neodymium magnets. Check out the build in the video below.
Connected to an ESC, the motor works decently, but not spectacularly. [Carl] admits that more tweaking is in order, and we have little doubt he’ll keep optimizing the design. We like the look of this, and we’re keen to see it improved.
Continue reading “Jigsaw Motor Uses PCB Coils For Radial Flux”
It seems these days that the news is never good. Speaking from experience, that’s really nothing new; there’s always been something to worry about, and world leaders have always been adept at playing the games that inevitably lead to disturbing news. Wars always result in the very worst news, of course, and putting any kind of modifier in front of the word, like “Cold” or “proxy”, does little to ameliorate the impact.
And so the headlines have been filled these last months with stories of trade wars, with the primary belligerents being the United States and China. We’ve covered a bit about how tariffs, which serve as the primary weapons in any trade war, have impacted the supply of electronic components and other materials of importance to hackers.
But now, as the trade war continues, a more serious front is opening up, one that could have serious consequences not just to the parties involved but also to the world at large. The trade war has escalated to include rare earth metals, and if the threats and rumors currently circulating come to fruition, the technologies and industries that make up the very core of modern society will be in danger of grinding to a halt, at least temporarily.
Continue reading “Rare Earth Metals Caught In Trade War”
Hackaday regular [Mikey Sklar] is no stranger to body modifications. He enjoys tweaking his body in ways that help him with day to day tasks, including a ruler tattoo on his arm and an RFID chip embedded in the web of his hand. Lately, he has been toying around with a less invasive means of getting a better feel for magnetic fields in his surroundings.
Turned on to magnetic rings by a friend, he now wears an epoxy-coated rare earth ring every day, changing the way he interacts with the world. He says that besides the obvious ability to tell when he’s near iron-heavy material, he can also feel cell phone calls, as the speaker draws the ring closer while producing sound.
He says that holding the electric cord of his tea kettle gave him the biggest start, making him feel as if he had been electrocuted, minus the actual shock.
While it’s not the most high-tech hack, [Mikey] is quite happy with the “sixth sense” this reasonably price ring has been able to provide – we just might have to try it out ourselves.
This hack’s old as dirt to be sure, but new to us and a great accomplishment. The plane above, which is meant to fly without an operator, has been given RC control thanks to parts from that little car. The transmitter and receiver pair are the obvious transplant, but how do you add steering to a $7 plane that wasn’t manufactured to have that feature? The tail was cut and reconnected with mylar hinges to turn it into a rudder. A rare earth magnet and a coil are also thrown into the mix to provide movement. Basically this is a simple solenoid where the coil pushes against the magnet when energized, actuating the rudder. This in combination with an upgraded motor allows for both speed control and yaw. It doesn’t look like you can control roll and pitch but what more can you really expect?
This would be a nice first step on that path to building an epic flying camera rig.
Your hamster lives to good life, with food delivery and a maid service that cleans up after him. [DanF] helped to brighten up this hamster’s life even more by improving its exercise equipment and giving it a small night-light as well. This project adds a low RPM alternator to the hamster wheel.
The first part of the process was to reduce energy lost to friction by fitting the wheel with a bearing. From there a ring of permanent magnets was added which will pass by a stationary coil and induce a current. It works, but unfortunately there’s not enough power generated to charge a battery. That means the light is only on when the hamster is running. But maybe you can figure out a way to use a super-capacitor like we saw in that exercise bike hack.
One nice finishing touch to the setup is a bicycle computer to track how much time was sent on the wheel, and the distance traveled.