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Magnetization Milestones: Tracking the Journey of Magnets from Surgery to Outer Space

Magnetization Milestones: Tracking the Journey of Magnets
Surgeons at the Cleveland Clinic are using magnets to help control their work Surgeons at the Cleveland Clinic are using magnets to help control their work
Magnetization Milestones: Tracking the Journey of Magnets
Surgeons at the Cleveland Clinic are using magnets to help control their work Surgeons at the Cleveland Clinic are using magnets to help control their work

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Magnetization Milestones: Tracking the Journey of Magnets from Surgery to Outer Space

In a groundbreaking surgical procedure, Dr. Matthew Kroh and his team at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio utilized advanced magnet technology to perform a gall bladder removal with unprecedented precision. The procedure involved a set of tweezer-like metal jaws, seemingly levitating inside the patient’s body and controlled remotely by a robotic arm wielding a special magnet. This innovative approach allowed the surgeons to navigate delicate structures such as blood vessels with exceptional clarity, minimizing the invasiveness of the surgery and reducing the need for multiple incisions.

While such applications of magnet technology in surgery are relatively new, magnets have long been a staple in various industries, from consumer electronics to aerospace. Researchers and companies are continuously pushing the boundaries of magnet technology, striving to enhance their power and efficiency. This drive for innovation is fueled by the increasing demand for magnets in emerging technologies such as electric vehicle (EV) motors and wind turbines, where magnets play a vital role in driving efficiency and performance.

However, the production of magnets typically relies on rare earth elements, which are predominantly mined in environmentally harmful ways, with China holding a dominant market share. As concerns over sustainability and supply chain security mount, there is a growing need for cleaner and more diversified magnet manufacturing processes.

One avenue of exploration is the development of alternative magnet materials that do not rely on rare earth elements. US firm Niron Magnetics, for example, has successfully produced magnets using iron and nitrogen, offering a promising alternative to traditional rare earth magnets. Additionally, efforts are underway to establish recycling methods for magnets, allowing for the recovery of valuable materials from old electronics and industrial equipment.

In the UK, the University of Birmingham has pioneered a method for extracting rare earth alloys from discarded electric motors and hard drives, with spin-out company HyProMag aiming to commercialize magnet production using recycled materials. Similarly, US firm Noveon Magnetics has developed its own recycling process, boasting improved efficiency compared to traditional magnet production methods.

As the demand for magnets continues to grow, driven by advancements in technology and the transition towards cleaner energy sources, the development of sustainable manufacturing and recycling practices will be crucial. With ongoing research and innovation, the potential applications of magnet technology are virtually limitless, promising transformative advancements in fields ranging from healthcare to space exploration.


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