A brief history of your career since leaving the University of Birmingham

Before moving into the magnet industry, I spent a short time as a research associate at the University of Delaware working on the synthesis of NdFeB nanoparticles. I also spent time at Beijing Technical University where I helped manage a research group work on rare earth permanent magnets. Later, as part of the industrial experience team at Yantai Shougang Magnetic Materials (YSM) I determined the directions, priority and budget for research efforts. I also interfaced with customers, engineering, and manufacturing. In this role I also set up the research laboratory and quality control points for YSM, which is now one of the best NdFeB magnet manufacturing plants in China. In 2014 I co-founded the Urban Mining Company, where I now act as a managing director and board member.

Skills and knowledge from your postgraduate degree have you used in your career so far

My role involves communication, project management, data analysis, independent thinking, critical thinking and problem solving.

Main work activities in your current role

I design products and processes as well as machines. I also oversee the R&D activities and set up new challenges for altering the methods for producing NdFeB sintered magnets.

A typical day in your job

There's not really a typical job as I work within a very dynamic environment.

Main challenges in your role

It can be a challenge to communicate with and provide useful constructive feedback to co-workers.

Why did this type of work appeal to you?

Miha and co-workers have developed a novel, patented neodymium-iron-boron (NdFeB) permanent magnet recycling technology known as the Magnet-to-Magnet (M2M®) recycling process. M2M® is a process whereby scrap NdFeB materials are harvested from end-of life devices, reduced to a fine powder, pressed, and then sintered into newly engineered NdFeB magnets. One of his major innovations is the ability to mix NdFeB scrap with varying starting compositions while controlling the output of the magnetic properties. Uniquely, M2M® produces magnets with higher magnetic flux, increased resistivity, and better thermal stability, with up to 60% less dysprosium (one of the more environmentally damaging, and expensive rare earths to produce) than traditional manufacturers. We achieve these properties because our technology selectively modifies the composition and microstructure of the inter-granular material to achieve high coercivity and enhanced temperature stability. This technological breakthrough allows UMC to engineer NdFeB magnetic systems for high temperature applications with less dysprosium, while still meeting one of the most pressing quality requirements – magnetic performance at high operating temperatures – at a reduced material cost and preserve the environment. UMC has 8 international patents in force (or being applied for) that cover Nd-Fe-B harvesters, Grain Boundary Modifier® (GBM®) alloys, the GBE® and M2M® processes, and a variety of other materials and technologies. Miha’s IP portfolio is expanding and is committed to more research in the future, allowing complete freedom to operate and protection of the NdFeB U.S. industrial base.

Advice for students looking to enter this area of work?

I advise that you develop skills like project management, data analysis, independent and critical thinking. The ability to solve problems is essential if you want to create a business around your research.