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Magnets play an essential role in the modern world, being used in our daily applications such as the speakers in mobile phones and the electric motors in hybrid cars, air conditioners and washing machines. The NEOMAX® range of neodymium magnets first released in 1982* have become world leaders with their magnetism approximately ten times that of a ferrite magnet. They help make electric motors smaller and more efficient, and help reduce CO2 emissions.
NEOMAX® neodymium magnets are amongst the strongest(*1) available in the world and are recognized as the "strongest magnet ever developed in Japan". As the magnets are vital for reducing the size and improving the performance of magnetic circuits, they are used not only in electric motors in hybrid cars, air conditioning units, washing machines and elsewhere, but also in devices such as the slim-profile speakers used in mobile phones and in medical equipment such as MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) machines.
Although induction motors that do not use magnets are currently used extensively in industry, the superior efficiency of permanent magnet motors that use neodymium magnets means that replacing these induction motors would significantly reduce energy consumption and help reduce CO2 emissions.
For example, the low-speed motor efficiency of the high-performance NEOMAX® IPM motors(*2) used in hybrid cars and the compressors in energy-efficient air conditioners is approximately 30% better than that of induction motors. It has been estimated that a 1% improvement in the efficiency of electric motors would save power equivalent to the output of a 500MW thermal power station.
In this way, the IPM motor makes a major contribution to the global environment by improving home appliances, IT (information technology) and industrial equipment, vehicles, and other electrical systems so that they are more efficient, cheaper to run, smaller and lighter.
We have also developed an eco-friendly chrome-free surface treatment. Heat-resistant, corrosion-resistant, and free of any harmful substances, the treatment allows magnets to be supplied to suit different applications.
The magnets make very sparing use of rare earth elements which have a high scarcity value, and scrap from the manufacturing process is sorted and collected to achieve a level of recycling of approximately 95%. Developing and supplying these high-performance magnetic materials in this resource-efficient way also actively contributes to the effective use of energy resources.
Compared to conventional PM (permanent magnet) motors and coil motors (motors that do not use magnets), IPM motors are highly efficient and as a result they have entered widespread use in energy-efficient home appliances (air conditioners, refrigerators, and similar), hybrid cars, and other applications.
By using drive motors and generators containing NEOMAX® neodymium magnets, hybrid vehicles can travel roughly 1.8 times (*4) the distance of a non-hybrid vehicle on the same quantity of fuel.
Use of NEOMAX® neodymium magnets in electric power steering can also deliver a 3.5% saving on CO2 emissions(*5).
With the demand for hybrid vehicles growing every year and the expectation that the motors will also be used in electrical vehicles, the number of neodymium magnet motors used in vehicles is likely to increase further.
The range of applications for NEOMAX® neodymium magnets is getting wider in response to growing environmental awareness. Diverse applications are anticipated in devices such as mobile phones and HDDs (hard disk drives) in the IT equipment sector, air conditioners, washing machines and refrigerators in the home appliance sector, and in fields that require precision and reliability such as industrial and medical equipment.
The Hitachi Group views the NEOMAX® Neodymium Rare Earth Permanent Magnet as one of the ways we can achieve our Environmental Vision 2025, with a goal of helping to reduce annual CO2 emissions by 100 million tons by 2025 through our products and services.