3-D Laser Confocal Microscopy Study of the Oxidation of NdFeB Magnets in Atmospheric Conditions

Jonathan Meakin, John Speight, Richard Sheridan, Ivor Harris, Andrew Williams, Allan Walton

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7 Citations (Scopus)
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Neodymium iron boron (NdFeB) magnets are used in a number of important applications, such as generators in gearless wind turbines, motors in electric vehicles and electronic goods (eg − computer hard disk drives, HDD). Hydrogen can be used as a processing gas to separate and recycle scrap sintered Nd-Fe-B magnets from end-of-life products to form a powder suitable for recycling. However, the magnets are likely to have been exposed to atmospheric conditions prior to processing, and any oxidation could lead to activation problems for the hydrogen decrepitation reaction. Many previous studies on the oxidation of NdFeB magnets have been performed at elevated temperatures; however, few studies have been formed under atmospheric conditions.

In this paper a combination of 3-D laser confocal microscopy and Raman spectroscopy have been used to assess the composition, morphology and rate of oxidation/corrosion on scrap sintered NdFeB magnets. Confocal microscopy has been employed to measure the growth of surface reaction products at room temperature, immediately after exposure to air. The results showed that there was a significant height increase at the triple junctions of the Nd-rich grain boundaries. Using Raman spectroscopy, the product was shown to consist of Nd2O3 and formed only on the Nd-rich triple junctions. The diffusion coefficient of the triple junction reaction product growth at 20 °C was determined to be approximately 4 × 10−13cm2/sec. This value is several orders of magnitude larger than values derived from the diffusion controlled oxide growth observations at elevated temperatures in the literature. This indicates that the growth of the room temperature oxidation products are likely defect enhanced processes at the NdFeB triple junctions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)540-544
JournalApplied Surface Science
Early online date26 Mar 2016
Publication statusPublished - 15 Aug 2016


  • NdFeB
  • Magnet
  • Oxidation
  • Confocal microscopy
  • Raman Spectroscopy


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