The experimental hall and storage ring building of the ESRF

Sustainable magnets: PUMA helps the energy transition

Powerful magnets can be used for effective cooling, heat and power generation. They make a decisive contribution to the energy turnaround. A network led by the University of Duisburg-Essen (UDE) is therefore researching new magnetic materials that are efficient and environmentally compatible. Partners in the PUMA project are the Technical University of Darmstadt and the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR). The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research is funding PUMA with two million euros for four years starting in October.

Whether in robotics, data storage or energy conversion: magnets are already used in many areas. To produce them, metals and minerals are needed, mostly rare earths. In the PUMA project (PUlsed high MAgnetic fields for new functional magnetic materials), the scientists are therefore aiming to develop highly efficient magnets that do not require these raw materials, which are available in limited quantities and are therefore classified as critical.

“On the one hand, we are focusing on permanent magnets. These have maximum efficiency and are used, for example, in motors for electromobility or in generators for wind turbines,” explains project leader Prof. Dr. Heiko Wende from UDE. His colleague from TU Darmstadt, Prof. Dr. Oliver Gutfleisch, adds: “On the other hand, we are researching new materials that make use of the magnetocaloric effect. This means that various metals and alloys can change their temperature as soon as they are exposed to a magnetic field. We are particularly interested in using this phenomenon for solid-state-based cooling as a climate-friendly alternative to conventional gas compression cooling.”

The two university project partners are already working together successfully, for example in the DFG Collaborative Research Center/Transregio 270. For the investigations, the trio will now use the European experimental station ESRF in Grenoble, because it is one of the world’s most brilliant facilities for synchrotron radiation.

“In Grenoble, we plan to set up a new pulsed high-field system on a beamline,” explains Prof. Dr. Joachim Wosnitza of the HZDR. “This will generate magnetic fields of more than 50 teslas, which is one million times the Earth’s magnetic field. This will allow us to precisely analyze the interactions that are essential for the function of magnetocaloric materials.”