University of Birmingham
The University of Birmingham is ranked in the top 20 universities in the UK, and in the top 100 universities worldwide. The Magnetic Materials Group (MMG) in the School of Metallurgy and Materials has worked on rare earth magnetic materials for over 40 years under Prof Rex Harris, Dr Andy Williams and Dr Allan Walton. The group has published over 300 papers on rare earth magnetic materials and is recognised as a centre of excellence throughout the world. Over 100 postgraduates and 30 postdoctoral researchers have qualified and been trained in the group.
The group has a long track record working with European partners and previously managed part of the CEAM programme (Concerted European Action on Magnets). The MMG investigate novel processing routes for rare earth magnetic materials including the hydrogen decrepitation process, and hydrogen disproportionation, desorption and recombination processes. and the powder blending of rare earth hydrides. Workers in the MMG recently announced the discovery of a new hydrogen based technique for the recovery and recycling of NdFeB magnets from scrap electronics which has led to two international patent applications.
Staff members involved
Dr Allan Walton is the head of the Magnetic Materials Group in the School of Metallurgy and Materials. He has researched various hydrogen technologies, nanostructured materials and magnetic materials for over 13 years. He has worked on several multidisciplinary UK (EPSRC) and EU (Framework 5 and 6) programmes focused on solid state hydrogen storage materials and hydrogen processing technologies and has over 25 publications on magnetic materials and hydrogen related research. He built and managed the hydrogen laboratories at the University of Birmingham which is recognised as a centre of excellence worldwide for the assessment of hydrogen – material interactions.
In 2009 Dr Walton was appointed as a Senior Science City Research Fellow working at both the University of Birmingham and the University of Warwick. Dr Walton has several projects working on the production of nanostructured hydrogen storage alloys using high velocity ball milling, magnetron sputtering and melt spinning, all of which are applicable to producing nanostructured rare earth magnet alloys. He is also in the process of developing a pilot scale strip casting facility capable of processing 10kg batches of NdFeB alloys. The same facility will be capable of melt spinning large batches of NdFeB alloys. In the last year he has given invited talks on recycling of NdFeB magnets at the DOE Washington (US), EU Parliament Building and the Royal Society/Institute of Materials (UK).
Former head of the MMG Honorary Professor Rex Harris continues to plays an active role in nearly all research projects, and pioneered the use of hydrogen to process rare earth alloys and has been at the forefront of the development of rare earth magnets since their inception in the 1970s.