HRL SLAM Project Will Develop Improved Electric Motor Magnets

HRL selected by the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) to develop clean energy technology

MALIBU, Calif. January 11, 2023— HRL Laboratories, LLC, has begun work on the surface laser architected magnets (SLAM) project to improve magnets within electric vehicle (EV) motor, a new Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E)- funded effort.

Artist’s expanded view of SLAM project magnets fitting into rotor for electric vehicle motors. Copyright 2023 HRL Laboratories

In current EV motors, permanent magnets are a design bottleneck due to the heat generated during operation. Expensive heavy rare-earth elements like dysprosium and terbium are added to conventional magnets to prevent demagnetization at elevated temperatures and maintain performance.

“The SLAM project aims to increase the temperature capabilities of magnets. By tailoring permanent magnet architectures, we can mitigate demagnetization and minimize the use of costly, heavy rare-earth elements largely sourced non-domestically,” said Brennan Yahata, HRL’s principal investigator on SLAM. “We’re targeting magnet and motor power density improvements specifically at the operating temperatures of these magnets. Magnet and motor architecture is an exciting, high-value research area in permanent magnet material solutions for EV manufacturers. This kind of technology can create opportunities to rethink electric motor design.”

Yahata also said that in contrast to other research efforts that seek entirely new magnet materials, HRL’s approach is to improve existing magnets by tailoring material architecture at the microstructure level.

HRL will work with General Motors to apply the latest laser-based manufacturing methods to engineer magnets for use in electric vehicles. Over the course of this 3-year, $2.6M program, HRL will develop and fabricate improved magnets and GM will integrate them into electric motors and test their performance.

“By applying additive manufacturing technology to selectively target the surface, we can not only use a minimal amount of rare earth elements but also effectively apply them where they are needed most,” said Raymond Nguyen, HRL materials engineer and fabrication lead on SLAM. “Reducing the cost of electric motors while maintaining or increasing their energy efficiency promotes adoption of electric vehicles.”

HRL’s ARPA-E funding for the SLAM project is part of the OPEN 2021 program, which prioritizes funding technologies that support novel approaches to clean energy challenges.

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HRL Laboratories, LLC, Malibu, California (hrl.com) is a corporate research-and-development laboratory owned by The Boeing Company and General Motors specializing in research into sensors and materials, information and systems sciences, applied electromagnetics, and microelectronics. HRL provides custom research and development and performs additional R&D contract services for its LLC member companies, the U.S. government, and other commercial companies.

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