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Science

Supercomputers Help Researchers Find Two New Kinds Of Magnets (phys.org) 79

"Predicting magnets is a heck of a job, and their discovery is very rare," said a mechanical engineering professor at Duke University. But after years of work synthesizing various predictions, material scientists "predicted and built two new magnetic materials, atom-by-atom, using high-throughput computational models." An anonymous reader quotes Phys.org: The success marks a new era for the large-scale design of new magnetic materials at unprecedented speed. Although magnets abound in everyday life, they are actually rarities -- only about 5% of known inorganic compounds show even a hint of magnetism. And of those, just a few dozen are useful in real-world applications because of variability in properties such as effective temperature range and magnetic permanence...

In a new study, materials scientists from Duke University provide a shortcut in this process. They show the capability to predict magnetism in new materials through computer models that can screen hundreds of thousands of candidates in short order. And, to prove it works, they've created two magnetic materials that have never been seen before.

"The first alloy is particularly interesting," reports the International Business Times, "because it contains no rare-earth materials, which are both expensive and difficult to acquire." But a Duke mechanical engineering professor points out that "It doesn't really matter if either of these new magnets proves useful in the future. The ability to rapidly predict their existence is a major coup and will be invaluable to materials scientists moving forward."
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Supercomputers Help Researchers Find Two New Kinds Of Magnets

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  • "It doesn't really matter if either of these new magnets proves useful in the future. The ability to rapidly predict their existence is a major coup and will be invaluable to scientists making drinking wagers moving forward."

    fixed that

  • Which supercomputer? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Sunday April 16, 2017 @06:55PM (#54246339)

    TFA seems to leave out a lot of important geeky details. Like which supercomputer was used? How many hours of CPU (or maybe GPU?) time was used? Since they were running hundreds of models in parallel, why did they need a supercomputer at all? Wouldn't it have been more cost effective to rent compute servers in the cloud?

    • Also: Magnets, how do they work?
    • Are the magnets any damn good? There are plenty of poor quality magnetic materials, like the old alnico series.
      • by Dr. Spork ( 142693 ) on Monday April 17, 2017 @12:39AM (#54247329)
        Alnico magnets are awesome as pole pieces in pickups for electric guitars and basses. This year I started winding my own bass pickups, after testing many commercial pickups to get a sense of how the physical parameters affect tone. I can tell you that the kind of magnet you use makes an obvious difference to the sound of the instrument. It's not just about the net strength and geometry of the fields. Alnico magnets - but not ceramic, nor Nd - get eddy currents induced inside them from the vibrating strings, and this affects how they sound. I wonder whether Co2MnTi would also have these. I get the impression it's not a proper homogeneous alloy, so maybe not. Still, more info and a comparison field strengths would be useful. To a musician, a new type of magnet might be something like a newly discovered species of aromatic fruit: You immediately wonder what new aesthetic experiences it would allow for.
  • by darthsilun ( 3993753 ) on Sunday April 16, 2017 @07:52PM (#54246475)

    ... rare-earth materials, which are both expensive and difficult to acquire."

    or

    http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-26687605 (amongst others) that claim Rare-Earths are not rare and by extension not necessarily expensive or even very difficult to acquire.

    Which is it then? Who should we believe?

    • by swb ( 14022 ) on Sunday April 16, 2017 @08:44PM (#54246643)

      Not rare but they produce a ton of toxic waste being processed. It all went to China because they could do it cheaper and eat the toxic waste, too.

      When China were embargoing exports (or talking about it) there was talk of granting exceptions to a closed mine in California to re-open as a strategic hedge.

      • Rare earth mining does not produce toxic waste.
        Why would it?
        Basically you are just pit mining salts or digging out stones.

      • by haruchai ( 17472 )

        Not rare but they produce a ton of toxic waste being processed. It all went to China because they could do it cheaper and eat the toxic waste, too.

        A lot of that "waste" is thorium which I assume China is stockpiling.

        When China were embargoing exports (or talking about it) there was talk of granting exceptions to a closed mine in California to re-open as a strategic hedge.

        I thought that Mountain Pass mine should have been re-opened for several years but it seems the owner Molycorp was still in bankruptcy as of last fall ; hope the waste is being handled in a more environmentally friendly manner than before the closure.

    • They are not rare.
      And so cheap right now that plenty of mines in the americas are closed.

      • And so cheap right now that plenty of mines in the americas are closed.

        They are only cheap when you shit up the planet with no remorse, which is why they are coming out of China. But anyone buying them is funding the shitting up of the planet.

        • The Chinese mine them in deserts.
          Wow ... how much can you shit up there?
          Mining Rare Earth minerals is just producing a lot of sand. And if you refine them in place a lot of salts.
          Who cares about that? Most of the 'waste' stuff can be sold anyway.

          You are smarter than most americans, why don't you read an article about it?

    • by necro81 ( 917438 )
      Part of the problem is that they have a lot of chemical similarities, and so are difficult to separate from one another and to purify to the point where you can do something useful with them.

      and while it is true that the rare earths are actually pretty easy to find, the natural concentrations tend to be quite low, making it not commercially viable in most places.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Duke University's Gender Studies Department used the supercomputer to discover two new genders previously unknown to gender scientists. And in a complementary study, their English Department is planning to research possible new pronouns. Go Blue Devil Supercomputer!

  • on that no rare earth materials page. One I understand. But three?! Cacaphony of GTFO no matter how good of a read the article may have been.

  • by DesertNomad ( 885798 ) on Sunday April 16, 2017 @10:45PM (#54246973)

    One of the magnetic (actually anti-ferromagnetic) compounds discovered was Mn2PtPd. Pt and Pd are two orders of magnitude more rare than the "relatively common" rare earths...

    • by Rei ( 128717 )

      Yes, that would be the reason why they said that only one of the two magnets is particularly "interesting".

    • Yeah, most "rare earth" metals are far from rare, and often not that expensive, as there are deposits all over the world. One of the difficulties is that China had a huge supply and was dumping them on the market to gain global share and drive other mines to close down (reducing competitors and allowing them to raise the price). That is, of course, until they became a manufacturing powerhouse and realized they should be keeping those elements in-country to bolster their total manufacturing chain. Then, of c

  • The success marks a new era for the large-scale design of new magnetic materials

    No, it doesn't. This is screening, and regardless of how much those in the field of drug "design" and materials "design" use those words, it's not Design, and it's not Engineering. It's Discovery, and it's great that physics and computation have gotten to the point where we can actually discover useful things in silico much faster than at the bench. But engineering requires an understanding of the underlying relationship between materials composition and desired quantitative property, and that is largely st

  • Rare earth metals are not scarce material. They are metals that occur together in nature and take a lot of effort to separate.

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