University-born company Niron Magnetics receives $17.5M DOE grant

Professor Jian-Ping Wang involved in effort to make more sustainable magnets for clean energy and electronics

MINNEAPOLIS / ST. PAUL (11/29/2022)—Niron Magnetics, a startup company born out of University of Minnesota Twin Cities Professor Jian-Ping Wang’s research, received $17.5 million from the U.S. Department of Energy to scale up prototyping of its sustainable permanent magnets. The grant is part of the DOE Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) Seeding Critical Advances for Leading Energy technologies with Untapped Potential (SCALEUP) program. 

Niron is partnering with six leading global manufacturers of devices that rely on magnets for the SCALEUP project, including Volvo Cars, an automotive company; Peerless, a manufacturer of drivers and amps for audio speakers; and Western Digital, who makes flash and hard drives for data storage applications. Leading power tool and wind turbine manufacturers are also involved. The company is completing a 25,000-square-foot pilot plant adjacent to its headquarters in northeast Minneapolis.

Permanent magnets are key components in electric vehicles, wind turbines, and many other clean energy technologies. They also help power common devices that we use daily, such as computers and electric appliances. However, current magnets are made using rare earth elements, which are less available and have negative environmental impacts. 

Niron Magnetics’ Clean Earth Magnet is the world’s first high-powered, rare earth-free permanent magnet, made from abundant iron and nitrogen materials. These magnets will provide a less expensive, more sustainable way for the United States to achieve its goal of reaching net-zero emissions by 2050.

Wang founded Niron Magnetics in 2014 after he and his University of Minnesota research group developed the world’s first iron nitride magnet. Now, he serves as the company’s scientific advisor. Wang, who holds 65 patents, was inducted into the National Academy of Inventors this year and has founded three companies including Niron.

“Permanent magnets are the key building blocks for a sustainable society,” said Wang, who is a Distinguished McKnight University Professor and the Robert F. Hartmann Chair in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. “With good support from an early round of DOE ARPA-E, Minnesota investment communities, world-leading venture capitalists including Artiman and Anzu, and several other recent important investors like Volvo and Western Digital in the past 10 years, our dedicated University of Minnesota and Niron teams have made several key milestones and have reached a stage to demonstrate the scalable process for manufacturing. This round of DOE ARPA-E grant will enable this scaling up process for manufacturing iron nitride magnets.”

Learn more about Niron Magnetics.