Twin passions for engineering and the environment inspired Brian Lejeune to become a material scientist, and to undertake research into the development of new and inexpensive magnetic materials. A native of New England, Lejeune grew up in Rhode Island, and attended Northeastern as an undergraduate studying Chemical Engineering before focusing on Material Science for his PhD under the advisement of Professor Laura Lewis in the Nanomagnetism Group.
Today, Lejeune’s lab research focuses on developing new magnetic materials, in particular materials that can change temperature in the presence of a magnetic field. Lejeune explains, “Magnets are one of the most efficient ways we have to convert between different forms of energy, which in particular has implications for alternative energy…making it an exciting area of research.”
While this has implications for magnets used in a wide array of technologies, from cell phones and laptops to wind turbines and electric vehicles, Lejeune is particularly interested in potential applications for refrigeration technology. There his lab’s materials could function as a solid- state cooling system, resulting in greatly improved energy efficiency while producing no greenhouse gas emissions.
Best of all, these materials are made up of abundant and relatively inexpensive elements – making it easier and less expensive to adopt for countries that wish to convert to the new technology. “Generally speaking,” Lejeune explains, “most of the best magnetic materials contain elements that either come from very few sources around the world or are very expensive. The Nanomagnetism group hopes to try and diversify the supply.”
After he completes his doctorate later in 2019, Lejeune is considering postdoctoral research as his next step, in hopes of incorporating his love of geology and minerology into his material science research. “Geology was one of the main catalysts for material science to form as a field, and a lot of the seminal work was done quite a while ago. Obviously, the issues that we face in the world are quite a bit different now, and I think there could be a lot of exciting discoveries made by going back to those natural materials and re-evaluating them with better resources.”