Björn Skårman, Ye Zhou and Hilmar Vidarsson
Behind the patent

Inspiring to develop products that contribute to reducing climate change

Höganäs’ metal powder Somaloy® 5P is an important product in the conversion from fossil energy to renewable. It is used, for example, in electric motors, as well as the power electronics for solar cells and wind turbines. Behind it are the three innovators Björn Skårman, Ye Zhou and Hilmar Vidarsson, who say that the path from idea to finished product required both new thinking and a great deal of patience.

“Höganäs' strategy is to be a world leader in metal powder and at the same time contribute to a sustainable society. Development of products for renewable energy and electrification of vehicles is part of that strategy,” says Ye, who led the development project.

The team therefore adopted the challenge of developing a metal powder with minimal energy loss that could be used in, for example, electric motors, electric chargers for vehicles and DC-AC inverters for solar energy and electric filters (inductors) for wind power.

“We started at a research level and after three years of development we came up with both a production method and a finished product that our customers now use. The product means that electric motors get both high power and better efficiency, which can thus make the motor smaller. It is completely unique and none of our competitors can copy it thanks to the combined expertise that has contributed to the development of the product,” says Ye.

The journey from idea to finished product was time consuming and required countless tests.

“We worked a lot on testing, optimizing and adapting the material. When we achieved the desired result for a property such as resistivity, it turned out, for example, that another property like strength became too low. Then it was just to optimize, adapt and test again,” says Björn.

“Finally, we had a product with the desired properties and then customers started testing the material. Since the customers liked the product, we were on target. The result was the Somaloy 5P product, which consists of iron powder with a nanometer-thin electrical insulating layer around each individual iron particle,” says Hilmar.

Zhou, Björn and Hilmar have been working on development within Höganäs for about 20 years and they appreciate their work for several reasons.

"It's still great fun to go to work because what we invent will be used in reality and we have many exciting challenges left," says Ye.

“As a material chemist, I enjoy working with materials that can transfer and store energy. It is also inspiring that the products are used in real life and contribute to reduced climate impact in society.

We are now working on several other exciting projects, including developing iron-based materials for batteries and materials to be used in permanent magnets. But that's another story,” says Björn.