Terfenol-D, an alloy of the formula TbxDy1−xFe2 (x ≈ 0.3), is a magnetostrictive material. It was initially developed in the 1970s by the Naval Ordnance Laboratory in United States. The technology for manufacturing the material efficiently was developed in the 1980s at Ames Laboratory under a U.S. Navy-funded program. It is named after terbium, iron (Fe), Naval Ordnance Laboratory (NOL), and the D comes from dysprosium.
The alloy has the highest magnetostriction of any alloy, up to 0.002 m/m at saturation; it expands and contracts in a magnetic field. Terfenol-D has a large magnetostriction force, high energy density, low sound velocity, and a low Young's modulus. At its most pure form, it also has low ductility and a low fracture resistance. Terfenol-D is a gray alloy that has different possible ratios of its elemental components that always follow a formula of TbxDy1−xFe2. The addition of dysprosium made it easier to induce magnetostrictive responses by making the alloy require a lower level of magnetic fields. When the ratio of Tb and Dy is increased, the resulting alloy's magnetostrictive properties will operate at temperatures as low as −200 °C, and when decreased, it may operate at a maximum of 200 °C. The composition of Terfenol-D allows it to have a large magnetostriction and magnetic flux when a magnetic field is applied to it. This case exists for a large range of compressive stresses, with a trend of decreasing magnetostriction as the compressive stress increases. There is also a relationship between the magnetic flux and compression in which when the compressive stress increases, the magnetic flux changes less drastically. Terfenol-D is mostly used for its magnetostrictive properties, in which it changes shape when exposed to magnetic fields in a process called magnetization. Magnetic heat treatment is shown to improve the magnetostrictive properties of Terfenol-D at low compressive stress for certain ratios of Tb and Dy.
Due to its material properties, Terfenol-D is excellent for use in the manufacturing of low frequency, high powered underwater acoustics. Its initial application was in naval sonar systems. It sees application in magnetomechanical sensors, actuators, and acoustic and ultrasonic transducers due to its high energy density and large bandwidth capabilities, e.g. in the SoundBug device (its first commercial application by FeONIC). Its strain is also larger than that of another normally used material (PZT8), which allows Terfenol-D transducers to reach greater depths for ocean explorations than past transducers. Its low Young’s Modulus brings some complications due to compression at large depths, which are overcome in transducer designs that may reach 1000 ft in depth and only lose a small amount of accuracy of around 1 dB. Due to its high temperature range, Terfenol-D is also useful in deep hole acoustic transducers where the environment may reach high pressure and temperatures like oil holes. Terfenol-D may also be used for hydraulic valve drivers due to its high strain and high force properties. Similarly, Magnetostrictive actuators have also been considered for use in fuel injectors for diesel engines because of the high stresses that can be produced.