Sandia National Lab engineers have developed a way to make a magnetic material that could lead to lighter and smaller, cheaper and better-performing high-frequency transformers. High-frequency transformers are needed for more flexible energy storage systems and widespread adoption of renewable energy.
The new iron nitride transformers developed at Sandia should boost energy storage options. Sandia manufactures the iron nitride (γ’-Fe4N) powders by ball-milling iron powders in liquid nitrogen and then ammonia. The iron nitride powders are then consolidated through a low-temperature field-assisted sintering technique (FAST) that forms a solid material from loose powders through the application of heat and sometimes pressure.
The FAST manufacturing method enables the creation of transformer cores from raw starting materials in minutes, without decomposing the required iron nitrides, as could happen at the higher temperatures used in conventional sintering. Previously, the γ’ phase of iron nitride has only been synthesized in either thin-film form in high-vacuum environments or as inclusions in other materials, and yet never integrated into an actual device.
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