A magnetic plastic is a non-metallic magnet made from an organic polymer. PANiCNQ, which is a combination of tetracyanoquinodimethane (TCNQ) and emeraldine-based polyaniline (PANi) is an example of a magnetic plastic. PANiCNQ was created by researchers at the University of Durham in 2004 and was the first magnetic plastic to function at room temperature. PANiCNQ is a conductive polymer that is stable in air and is 1/100th the strength of conventional metal magnets. When combined with the free radical-forming TCNQ as an acceptor molecule, it can mimic the mechanism of metallic magnets. Magnetic plastics could lead to the development of inexpensive and flexible devices for quantum computing and superconducting electronics.
Magnetic plastics have several advantages over their metallic counterparts, such as being less dense and are useful in applications where weight is a concern. Magnetic plastics have superior cost-performance ratio and can be produced in a large variety of shapes. Sprayed magnets are typical composite materials. The magnetic powder is embedded in thermoplastics (polyamides), allowing the most diverse shapes to be created. Magnetic plastics are free from surface corrosion. Hence they can be used in numerous application fields without additional coating.
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Magnetic plastics have applications in food, electronics and medical industry. Magnetic plastics are used in computer hardware, for example as disc drives and in medical devices such as cochlear implants and pacemakers where the organic material is more likely to be biocompatible than its metallic counterpart. These can be used to manufacture magnetic switches or inductive assemblies. In the food industry, magnetic plastics are used to manufacture tanks, moulds, scrapers, housings and other parts. These components do not always come into direct contact with foodstuffs but may contaminate the food with parts of different sizes if damaged. This has given rise to the demand that all plastic parts, which may come into contact with food should be detectable and suit-able for use in the food sector. Magnetic plastics can also be used to manufacture magnetic deflector beams, magnetic rollers for color television sets, rotating magnets in motors for office equipment, cooling fans, magnets for rotational or frequency sensor and motors in the automotive industry among others.
Magnetic plastics are produced by embedding hard ferrite or rare earth magnet powder in plastic. First, the magnet powder and the plastic are mixed in special equipment. Then the mixture is pressed or processed in modified injection molding machines. This process achieves very narrow tolerances, so that post processing is normally unnecessary.
The demand for magnetic plastics will be driven by growth in consumer industry. As there is increase in production of personal computers, mobile phones and generators, there will be increase in consumption of magnetic plastics.
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Asia Pacific is the largest market for magnetic plastics. China is the dominant country market in Asia Pacific, accounting for majority of the magnetic plastics market in Asia Pacific. Most of the larger manufacturing units are located outside the developed economies particularly in emerging economies, to take advantage of lower labor costs and overheads. South East Asian countries, India, South Africa and Brazil are expected to have significant growth in near future.
Some of the key players in this market are OM Group, ALL Magnetics Inc, ThyssenKrupp, Arnold Magnetic Technologies and Kolektor Magnet Technology GmbH among others.