Nano-scale material like ‘magnetic play-dough’ 

 Dr Jérôme Leveneur, a researcher in the Environment and Materials division of GNS Science’s National Isotope Centre, has been awarded $20,000 from the KiwiNet Emerging Innovator Fund to further develop a new nano-scale magnetic material.  Dr Leveneur’s magnetic material made of nanostructures is 1000 times thinner than a human hair. The material’s small scale gives it enhanced properties over conventional magnetic materials which can be used to improve energy efficiency of transformers and inductors.  

Dr Leveneur says, “The material is highly flexible and can be manufactured in a range of different shapes, like ‘magnetic play-dough’, to make any size and shape, which is not the case with existing materials.

“The ability to mould the material to any shape can be used to improve the designs and energy efficiency of inductors and transformers, for example, as we can ensure that the magnetic field goes exactly where it’s needed which is more efficient.”

Dr Leveneur believes the new high performance material has the potential to benefit a wide range of industries and lead to a radical advancement in electro-magnet technologies used in areas such as inductive power transfer, radio communication and electric motors.

“When you switch regular electromagnets off they hold a fraction of their magnetism and it costs additional energy to switch them on in another direction. With nanomaterials the magnetism can be switched on and off at no additional energy cost, increasing efficiency,” he says.

The Emerging Innovator Fund was launched by KiwiNet with the generous philanthropic support of the Norman F. B. Barry Foundation to help early career researchers take their ground-breaking science to market.  It is open to scientists from universities and Crown Research Institutes who demonstrate a clever new idea and a willingness to work closely with industry as they develop a prototype.

Chris Kroger, Research Manager & Deputy GM Research, GNS Science says, “Jérôme’s research is potentially a game changer in the field of magnetic materials. It focusses on new types of solid nanostructured magnetic materials that can be moulded into any size or shape and previously only very particular shapes and sizes could be made.

“Jérôme is a very worthy Emerging Innovator Fund recipient as throughout his scientific career he has been heavily involved in industry-led research. His discoveries in new functional surfaces and materials, and their application in sensor systems and manufacturing processes hold great promise to impact industry in a powerful way.”

Leveneur will use the Emerging Innovator funding to work closely with New Zealand manufacturers of transformers and inductors who could benefit from his innovative research. His goal is to demonstrate how his material can outperform current materials or investigate completely new designs that are currently unachievable through conventional methods.

Dr Bram Smith, General Manager of KiwiNet is excited about the opportunities the Emerging Innovator Fund opens to early career researchers. “The fund aims to spur on some of New Zealand’s most talented early career scientists. It’s a collaborative effort with the Norman F. B. Barry Foundation providing the funding, MinterEllisonRuddWatts providing in-kind expert legal support, Baldwins offering IP advice and KiwiNet recruiting a commercial mentor to support Jérôme. KiwiNet is growing this initiative over the next year to give our next generation of innovators a real boost in their ground breaking work.”

John Smith, Chairman of the Norman F B Barry Foundation sees the Emerging Innovator Fund as an ideal way to leverage combined resources and connections. Smith says, “Both KiwiNet and the Foundation share the common goal to inspire young people to pursue science careers and seek out opportunities to apply their knowledge to benefit the community and the economy.”

 

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