[Photo provided by LG Innotek]
South Korea’s LG Innotek has developed the industry’s strongest eco-friendly magnet with the significantly reduced use of expensive heavy rare-earth metals, putting the country’s technology one step ahead of China and Japan that have dominated the global market of industrial magnets.
The electronic component arm of LG Group said on Monday that it successfully developed a new magnet that uses about 60 percent less heavy rare-earth metals compared with existing magnet product jointly with local magnet company Sunglim Group Industry.
LG Innotek claimed that even with the minimized use of heavy rare earth metals, its magnet boasts the industry highest performance of 14.8 kilogauss (KG) ― a unit representing magnetic strength. The industry sees the technical performance limit of LG Innotek’s magnet as 15KG, which beats the products of Japanese companies whose performance stays at 14.2-14.3kG.
Magnets are used in electronics products, and LG Innotek’s new magnet would be used in vehicle motors, smartphone cameras and audio speakers. The Korean company also will apply the eco-friendly magnet to its own products such as vehicle steering motors and smartphone actuators.
The latest development is particularly significant because Korea imports most of its heavy rare-earth metals, a key ingredient of magnets, from China. For the local industry, the use of heavy rare-earth metals is essential to boost magnet strength, but the lack of supply and high prices of rare earths, environmental pollution from mining, and high reliance on China remain headaches.
Chinese companies have increased their market share with price competitiveness based on an abundant supply of heavy rare earths, while Japanese companies such as Shin-Etsu, TDK, and Hitachi Metals have raised the technology bar.
The new magnet is also expected to contribute to making motors smaller and lighter.
LG Innotek, however, will go all-out to develop the most advanced magnet with zero heavy rare earth metal in the end. The company started developing its own magnets in 2017.
By Park Jae-young and Minu Kim
[ⓒ Pulse by Maeil Business Newspaper & mk.co.kr, All rights reserved]