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PhD Thesis Proposal: Thomas Keller



10:00am - 12:00pm ET

Rm B12, ECSC/Online

For optional Zoom link, email

"Optimizing Mn-Al permanent magnet performance via functional defects and ternary alloyant additions for energy applications"


The growing need for electrical power in machines and vehicles comes with it a growing need for critical materials. The current high-performance permanent magnets (PMs) based on rare-earth (RE) elements Nd and Sm cannot escape the problem of raw material cost, geographic scarcity in the earth’s crust, and lack of circular global supply chains. This poses a problem of industrial ecology: can permanent magnets be made from inexpensive, more abundant materials while still meeting comparable performance criteria to RE-PMs? PMs based on the magnetic τ phase of Mn-Al offer a viable alternative to RE PMs. However, years of innovation have not yet achieved real-world performance on par with the theoretical maximums needed to compete with RE PMs. This proposal sets forth a pathway for understanding how the effects of plastic strain and alloying with a ternary element may improve the intrinsic and microstructural characteristics of a Mn-Al PM, bringing it closer to commercialization.

The key questions this proposal will address are as follows: a) How does the addition of crystalline defects through plastic strain affect the magnetic properties and phase stability of τ Mn-Al? and b) How does the addition of the ternary element, Ti, affect the magnetic properties and phase stability of τ Mn-Al?

Mn-Al bulk material will be processed using plastic deformation techniques to increase the density of crystalline defects. The τ phase magnetic properties and phase stability will be analyzed and correlated to the strain-induced microstructure and defects. Mn-Al-Ti alloys will be synthesized at multiple compositions to compare how the relative addition of Ti affects the τ phase in terms of both the intrinsic magnetic properties and the microstructure. By separating the two, the mechanisms by which Ti improves the magnetic performance and τ phase stability can be best understood.

Thesis Committee

  • Ian Baker, PhD (Chair)
  • Geoffroy Hautier, PhD
  • Charles Sullivan, PhD
  • Jun Cui, PhD


For more information, contact Theresa Fuller at