Dysprosium is a chemical element with the symbol Dy and atomic number 66. It's also a rare-earth metal, found mainly in the clay ores of southern China. Dy has one of the highest magnetic strengths of any element, making it ideal for electric motors used in battery-powered vehicles, but access to this rare-earth metal can be often limited by export restrictions enforced by the Chinese government.

To avoid reliance on dysprosium, Toshiba aims to commercialize its samarium-cobalt (SmCo) magnets and hopes that within a year's time, samarium, a rare-earth metal in ample supply in the U.S. and Australia, will replace the dysprosium found in the electric motors that motivate plug-in cars.

Toshiba's development of samarium-cobalt magnets is ongoing, but several recent breakthroughs point towards this technology emerging soon. Samarium-cobalt magnets have long been thought to offer inadequate performance for electric motor duties. However, by reducing the cobalt content by 15 percent and replacing it with iron, Toshiba discovered a way to improve the samarium-cobalt's magnetic force by ten percent. Let's hope that Toshiba's engineers work this one out because relying on China for rare-earth metals can put automakers in a position that we believe they'd rather not be in.

[Source: Nikkei – sub. req. via Green Car Congress]

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