LG Innotek developed the world’s strongest ‘ECO Magnet’

  • The magnet minimizes the risk of vehicle production interruption by a shortage of heavy ra re-earth metals. It also lightens a vehicle’s weight by reducing the size and increasing the output of motors.
  • The product can improve the driving power of smartphone cameras by 10% and secure high-definition image quality.
  • LG Innotek expects to strengthen the competitive edge of its products such as motors using the eco magnet. The company will expand the applications of this magnet to home appliances and flying cars.

SEOUL, South Korea, Sept. 15, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — LG Innotek announced on the 14th that it has developed the world’s strongest ‘eco magnet’ in collaboration with the magnet company SGI (Sunglim Group Industry) Co. With this development, LG Innotek will be able to target the global magnet industry led by China and Japan.

The ‘eco magnet’developed by LG Innotek. This product has secured the world's strongest magnet-ic performance while minimizing the use of heavy rare-earth metals. The eco magnet can help stabi-lize the supply of raw materials and reduce the weight of vehicles. It can also result in clear high-definition photos by improving the driving power of smartphone cameras by about 10%.
The ‘eco magnet’developed by LG Innotek. This product has secured the world’s strongest magnet-ic performance while minimizing the use of heavy rare-earth metals. The eco magnet can help stabi-lize the supply of raw materials and reduce the weight of vehicles. It can also result in clear high-definition photos by improving the driving power of smartphone cameras by about 10%.

The eco magnet minimized the use of heavy rare-earth (HRE) metals that have high scarcity values. This magnet is an essential component for vehicle motors, smartphone cameras, audio speakers, and wind power generators. It is installed in products that require driving and provides power with its magnetic pushing and pulling force.

This product significantly reduced the use of HRE metals, a key ingredient of magnets, by 60% compared to the previous product. This is especially good news since the industry is struggling to find alternatives of HRE metals due to their lack of supply, high price, and environmental pollution caused. LG Innotek’s development of the eco magnet is particularly significant in that South Korea imports most of the HRE metals from China.

The product has raised the magnetic performance for home appliances and vehicle steering motors to 14.8 kG (in kilogauss, magnet strength), which is the world’s highest level. This beats the products of Japanese companies that have led the industry for nearly 40 years. The industry believes that the technical performance limit of this magnet is 15kG. The magnetic performance of products commercialized so far is only 14.2 to 14.3 kG.

The advantage of the eco magnet is that it uses only 40% of the HRE metals compared to the previous one. This minimizes the risk of production interruption due to a lack of raw material supply.

Automakers and vehicle components companies are showing interest in this magnet, because they have been struggling to reduce the proportion of HRE metals in their products. These companies are sensing the increasing risk of production interruption by a shortage of HRE metals supply. HRE metals can only be produced in certain countries, however the demands have soared recently due to the increase of electric vehicles. In addition, their supply is expected to get even tighter as these materials are becoming "weaponized" over diplomatic disputes.

Applying the eco magnet to a steering motor of a vehicle is advantageous for reducing the weight of the vehicle. The magnet reduces the size of the motor while increasing its output; the high magnetic power enables high motor output with a small size. This product is suitable for electric and hybrid vehicles that need weight reduction to improve mileage range (fuel economy of electric vehicles) due to an increase in battery weight. This magnet can also cut the cost of raw materials such as copper used in motors as it decreases the motor size.

When the eco magnet is applied to a high-pixel smartphone camera, it produces clearer photos and videos by increasing the driving force of the actuator (the part that moves the lens to focus).

As the specifications of smartphone cameras have enhanced, the size and weight of lenses have increased. And this now requires actuators to have stronger magnetic power. At the same time, as smartphones get slimmer, the demands for small but powerful magnets are increasing.

The eco magnet generates a stronger magnetic force than other magnets of the same size. This can increase the driving power of an actuator by about 10% without an increase in size. Therefore, even if a lens becomes heavier, the actuator can move the lens as quickly and accurately as needed.

The development of Eco-magnet is also significant in terms of sustainability since it minimized the use of HRE metals that cause pollution. HRE metals seriously pollute the environment by generating lots of radioactive materials, heavy metals, toxic gases, and acidic wastewater during production.

Until now, Japan, with its cutting-edge technology, and China, with its price competitiveness, have dominated the magnet market. In particular, China is dominating the global market by deciding on the global supply of HRE metals.

As a result, companies around the world such as automakers have been adversely affected by shortage of magnets with HRE metals when trade or diplomatic disputes arose. High prices and environmental pollution issues also need to be handled.

To solve such problems, LG Innotek began developing the eco magnet with reduced HRE metals in 2017 and has been focusing on securing the best magnetic performance since 2019. To this end, LG Innotek also joined hands with SGI, which has an HRE metal reduction technology.

HRE metals are an essential component to maintain magnetic force at high temperatures. Reducing these metals may decrease the durability of a magnet. Therefore, it was technically difficult to enhance the magnetic force while minimizing the use of HRE metals.

By adding new compounds, the two companies have developed a coating liquid for the eco magnet that uses less HRE metals however produces the strongest magnetic force in various products and temperatures. In addition, the companies also secured a new magnet material optimized for the coating liquid. LG Innotek’s eco magnet is made by applying this coating liquid to the magnet and heating the magnet to absorb the liquid evenly.

LG Innotek knew that it could not catch up with Japanese competitors’ technologies in a short period of time with the existing development method. To speed up the process, the company introduced a simulation technique using machine learning (a technology that a computer automatically determines and results in outputs by learning from data). Using this technique, the development period, which takes at least two years, has been halved.

With the machine learning computer, LG Innotek has significantly reduced the number and time of experiments by automating the process of deriving optimal process conditions such as the ratio of HRE metals and heat treatment temperature. Previously, researchers had to repeat experiments hundreds of times, which made the development period long and incurred errors.

LG Innotek plans to strengthen its competitive edge in the market by applying the eco magnet to the company’s other products such as steering motors for vehicles and smartphone actuators.

At the same time, LG Innotek plans promotions targeting global automakers, vehicle components manufacturers, and smartphone companies. And it will quickly expand the magnet’s applications to air conditioners, refrigerators, drones, urban flying cars, and generators.

In addition to solidify its technical leadership in magnet, the company has a plan to develop a ‘non-rare-earth magnet’ that does not contain rare-earth metals at all.

CTO Minseok Kang said, "It is meaningful that LG Innotek supplies the new product with the best performance and quality by developing its core materials in a short period of time using innovative technology. We will continue to provide differentiated values to customers with the eco magnet."

For more information about LG Innotek, please refer to the website: www.lginnotek.com

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