Magnetic, non-magnetics?!

Scientists have demonstrated for the first time how to generate a magnetic field in metals that are not naturally magnetic. The development could end reliance on rare and toxic elements commonly used by industry today.

In a study led by the University of Leeds and published in the journal Nature, researchers detailed how they altered the quantum interactions of matter in order to ‘fiddle the numbers’ in a mathematical equation that determines whether elements are magnetic. The equation is known as the Stoner Criterion.

Co-lead author Fatma Al Ma’Mari, from the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Leeds, said: “Being able to generate magnetism in materials that are not naturally magnetic opens new paths to devices that [could now instead] use abundant and hazardless elements, such as carbon and copper.

“Future technologies, such as quantum computers will require a new breed of magnets with additional properties to increase storage and processing capabilities. Our research is a step towards creating such ‘magnetic metamaterials’ that can fulfil this need.”

In the study, the researchers have shown how to change the exchange interaction and density-of-state in non-magnetic materials by removing some electrons using an interface coated with a thin layer of the carbon molecule C60, a so-called ‘buckyball’. This movement of electrons between the metal and the molecules allows the non-magnetic materials to overcome the Stoner Criterion.

Justin Cunningham

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