In 1980, NRL scientists N.C. Koon and B.N. Das were the first to examine the magnetic properties of rare earth-iron-boron (R2-Fe14-B) alloys, which showed promise for permanent magnet use. NRL scientists did the first work on these materials and hold the fundamental U.S. patents. These NRL patents have been licensed to several firms, and products are being offered commercially.

The melt spinning process during production of rare earth-boron alloys. In this technique, continuous ribbons of rare earth-boron alloys are formed by flowing a stream of molten alloy onto a rotating drum to cool the alloy rapidly.

Since 1983, commercial alloys based on R-Fe-B have been in commercial production; by 1985, these materials provided almost twice the magnetic energy density of the best materials previously available. These magnetic materials are eventually expected to cost much less than the older materials because they are made from less expensive and more abundant elements. They also offer relatively good corrosion resistance and are easily formed into complex shapes. These materials promise to be useful in both the military and commercial sectors for improved microwave tubes, sensors, powerful lightweight electric motors and generators, computer peripherals, and faster, more compact actuators.