Samarium Cobalt (SmCo) magnets have been the magnet of choice for a variety of industries for many years due to their favorable magnetic properties. Their high coercivity, combined with a low temperature coefficient, make them the ideal permanent magnet for demanding high temperature applications. One of the biggest concerns with rare earth magnets is their brittleness. Samarium Cobalt magnets in particular are prone to fracturing during machining and assembly. In manufacturing, great care must be taken to avoid chipping or fracturing these magnets due to their brittle nature.
There are two main grades of Samarium Cobalt magnets, 1:5 and 2:17. These ratios define the nominal ratio of rare earth to transition metal content.
In this paper, an investigation is performed on the fracture toughness of permanent magnets based on the Samarium Cobalt 2:17 composition. Various techniques are used to characterize the microstructure of the material, and quantify the material properties.
Optical microscopy is used to characterize the grain structure of the material and quantify the porosity of the material after sintering. By comparing the average grain size and fracture toughness of several samples, grain size was shown to not affect fracture toughness in standard material. Latent cracks in defective material showed no preference to follow grain boundaries, oxides inclusions or voids.
River marks in fracture surfaces are seen through scanning electron microscopy, confirming the transgranular cracking pattern seen by Li et al This suggests that the toughness of the material is an inherent property of the main phase, not of grain boundaries or contaminants.
Samarium Cobalt magnets exhibit both mechanical and magnetic anisotropy due to the alignment of their crystal structure in the manufacturing process.
Using Palmqvist indentation crack techniques, the magnetic orientation of the grains was seen to greatly influence the direction of crack propagation from the tip of the indenter. Measurements of fracture toughness using this technique produce highly scattered data due to this anisotropic nature of the material. Specimens loaded with the indenter axis parallel to the direction of orientation show normal Palmqvist cracks, while specimens loaded perpendicular to the direction of magnetization exhibit crack propagation initiating from the faces of the indenter.
To better quantify the material’s brittleness, fracture testing is performed on specially prepared samples to obtain an absolute measure of fracture toughness (K1c). Results show that SmCo is measurably weaker than other magnetic materials such as neodymium iron boron magnets. Furthermore, neither relative concentration of Samarium nor source of raw material show notable effect on the fracture toughness of the material.