University of Birmingham

Location: South West and Wales


The Magnetic Materials Group (MMG) at the University of Birmingham is the only UK research group focused on processing and recycling of permanent rare earth magnetic materials.

The MMG is internationally-recognised for its work on hydrogen processing of rare earth alloys and magnets which are used worldwide in the production and recycling of Neodymium-Iron-Boron (NdFeB) magnets. The group has been in existence for over 45 years under the leadership of Professor Rex Harris, Dr Andy Williams and now Professor Allan Walton.

Rare earth magnets play a fundamental role in energy generation and utilisation, which is becoming increasingly important as we move towards an electricity-based society. They play a vital role in the aerospace, robotics, electronic, wind turbine, medical, military and automotive industries. There are hundreds of magnets required in electric and hybrid cars within key applications such as drive motors, fans, generators, power steering, pumps, seat motors and loudspeakers.

Key strengths and unique capabilities

  • Fundamental materials and device research
  • Power systems
  • Converters
  • High power energy storage.
  • Rare Earth Permanent Magnet (REPM) processing
  • REPM recycling
  • Hydrogen processing of materials
  • Characterisation of magnetic materials.

The MMG has been at the forefront of alloy development and processing of magnetic materials for many years, working on ferrite, samarium cobalt and neodymium iron boron magnets in all their forms.


More recently, the group has focused on addressing the supply constraints for rare earth materials, which are top of the EU list in terms of criticality. Members of the MMG have played a crucial role in shaping the policy decisions around rare earth materials in the EU and UK.


A range of advanced and highly unique equipment to enable the sensing, sorting, separation, purification and re-processing of rare earth permanent magnets. The equipment will include:

  • Pre-processing equipment (cropping machines)
  • Hydrogen reactor >2000 litres
  • Powder processing unit including sieves, jet mill and blending system
  • Magnetic aligning presses (uniaxial and transverse)
  • Pellet press
  • Sintering furnace.

The equipment can also be used to process primary rare earth cast alloys.

A range of machining and finishing equipment for REPMs including an Electrostatic Discharge Machine (EDM) and grinding equipment.

  • 2 permeameters running up to 200°C
  • 2 Vibrating Sample Magnetometers (VSMs) to measure the hysteresis loops of solid and powdered magnetic samples
  • Particle size analysis
  • 3D magnetic scanner
  • Kerr effect microscopy
  • Chemical analysis equipment (ICP)
  • High velocity ball mills
  • Glove boxes
  • Pulse magnetiser
  • Isostatic presses
  • Sintering furnaces for sample sizes between 10-50 grams.
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