Image of a (demagnetized) NdFeB permanent magnet; Kerr image of an Nd2Fe14B sample
Energy Materials

Imaging Microstructures, Defects, and Magnetic Domains

In Permanent Magnets

The worldwide movement toward electric vehicles continues to grow - by 2030, the number on the roads is expected to reach 250 million globally. This is because of consumer demand stemming from rising gas prices and government efforts to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Electric vehicle technology depends on the availability of powerful permanent magnets for use in sensors and motors. And high demand on raw materials is leading to a highly intensified search for new magnetic alternatives. Developing new, more powerful, or cheaper magnets can accelerate electric vehicle adoption and deployment.  

The challenge of analyzing magnetic materials

Like all materials, the properties and behavior of magnets are determined by their microstructure. So, the performance of a particular magnetic material in electric vehicle motors or sensors will depend on the chemical and structural environment and the type and presence of any defects.

As a scientist, your goal is to understand the connection between a magnet’s performance and its structure - so you can improve magnetic materials to meet the growing demand. The problem is that fabricating these environments, as well as controlling them, is incredibly challenging. It’s also difficult to image magnetic materials under an electron microscope, since the magnetic field directly influences the electron beam and causes image distortion.

Powerful light and electron microscopes for analyzing magnets

ZEISS light and electron microscopes provide you with the capability to image microstructures, defects, and magnetic domain structures in permanent magnets. Field-free imaging provided by Gemini optics allows (demagnetized) bulk magnetic materials to be imaged successfully with electron microscopy, revealing critical microstructural details. Kerr microscopy allows for optical microscope solutions to image magnetic domain distributions, providing insight into the structures generating the magnetic fields. 

Your Next Step

ZEISS has a complete portfolio of light and electron microscopes for magnetic material analysis. Discover how you can push your research forward and develop future magnetic technology.

Application Images

  • Fractured surface of a (demagnetized) NdFeB permanent magnet, such as those used in NEV motors

    Fractured surface of a (demagnetized) NdFeB permanent magnet, such as those used in NEV motors. The sample is imaged at 3 kV and 7 mm working distance, GeminiSEM The three different contrasts are obtained by the outer, middle, and inner ring of the aBSD detector, respectively (from left to right).

  • ZEISS ZEN Connect workflow illustrated for a permanent magnet material sample.

    ZEISS ZEN Connect workflow illustrated for a permanent magnet material sample. Light microscopy from multiple instruments and electron microscopy images are co-registered for display and inspection across a range of resolutions and length scales.

  • Kerr image of an Nd2Fe14B smelting sample at 200× magnification in Axio Imager.Z2m

    Kerr image of an Nd2Fe14B smelting sample at 200× magnification in Axio Imager.Z2m with linearly polarized light with typical and in some cases complex domain patterns (closure domains: turquoise; stripe domains: dark blue).

  • Kerr image of an Nd2Fe14B closure domain at 1000× magnification in Axio Imager.Z2m

    Kerr image of an Nd2Fe14B closure domain at 1000× magnification in Axio Imager.Z2m with linearly polarized light. The domain pattern in the center of the image is typical for a lower grain thickness (such as with a pore directly below the specimen surface).


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