LG Innotek develops eco-friendly magnet

LG Innotek develops eco-friendly magnet

An LG Innotek employee holds a magnet in this photo provided by the company, Monday. Courtesy of LG Innotek

By Baek Byung-yeul

LG Innotek developed high-efficiency, eco-friendly magnets for use in vehicles and smart devices, aiming to advance into a market dominated by Chinese and Japanese manufacturers, the electronic component arm of LG Group said Monday.

The company worked jointly with local magnet company Sunglim Group Industry to develop the product. Magnets are essential components for vehicle motors, smartphone cameras, audio speakers and wind power generators. They are installed in products to provide power through magnetic pushing and pulling forces, the company said.

LG Innotek said it minimized the use of heavy rare-earth (HRE) metals by 60 percent compared to existing products. The industry is struggling to find alternatives for HRE metals due to their short supply as well as high cost and environmental pollution.

By using only 40 percent of the HRE metals compared to existing products, LG Innotek is able to minimize procurement problems caused by a shortage of raw materials. “LG Innotek’s eco-friendly magnet is particularly significant because South Korea imports most of its HRE metals from China,” the company said.

HRE metals come from only a few countries, but demand has been soaring recently due to increased demand for electric vehicles. Industry officials said the supply of HRE metals is expected to get even tighter due to diplomatic and trade disputes between China and the United States.

LG Innotek said it improved the performance of the magnets to 14.8 kilogauss ― a unit representing magnetic strength ― which is the highest level in the industry. This beats the products of Japanese companies that have led the industry for nearly 40 years, according to the firm.

“Applying the eco-friendly magnet to a steering motor of a vehicle is advantageous for reducing the weight of the vehicle. The magnet reduces the size of the motor while increasing its output,” LG Innotek said.

“This product is suitable for electric and hybrid vehicles that need weight reduction to improve mileage range due to an increase in battery weight. This magnet can also cut the costs of raw materials, such as copper used in motors, as it decreases the size of the motor,” the company added.

LG Innotek began developing its own magnets in 2017. The market has been dominated by Japanese firms that possess cutting-edge technological capabilities and Chinese firms that boast price competitiveness.

LG Innotek plans to strengthen its competitive edge in the market by applying the eco-friendly magnets to the company’s other products, such as steering motors for vehicles and smartphone actuators. At the same time, the company plans to strengthen promotions targeting global carmakers, auto parts makers and smartphone companies. It also aims to expand the use of its magnets to air conditioners, refrigerators, drones, urban air mobility vehicles and generators.

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