Scientists at the University of Leeds have discovered a method of creating magnetism in metals that are not naturally magnetic, opening up the possibility of using a range of abundant metals for magnetic applications.
The study, published in the journal Nature, details a way to modify quantum interactions of matter in order to adjust the result of a mathematical equation called the Stoner criterion, which determines whether elements are magnetic.
Magnets have multiple industrial and technological uses, including power generation in wind turbines, memory storage, and medical imaging. However, only three metals – iron, cobalt, and nickel – are naturally ferromagnetic, that is, they remain magnetic in the absence of a field.
“Having such a small variety of magnetic materials limits our ability to tailor magnetic systems to application needs without using very rare or toxic materials,” said Tim Moorsom of the School of Physics and Astronomy. University of Leeds, co-lead author on the paper.
âHaving to build devices with only the three naturally available magnetic metals at our disposal is a bit like trying to build a skyscraper using only wrought iron. Why not add some carbon and make some steel?
In the new study, the researchers showed how to modify the behavior of non-magnetic materials by removing certain electrons using an interface coated with a thin layer of the C60 carbon molecule, also known as a “buckyball”. “.
The movement of electrons between the metal and the molecules allows the non-magnetic material to overcome the Stoner criterion and become magnetic. According to the researchers, the discovery opens up new possibilities in a multitude of different industries.
âBeing able to generate magnetism in materials that are not naturally magnetic opens up new avenues for devices that use abundant and harmless elements, such as carbon and copper,â said lead co-author Fatma Al. Ma’Mari, also from the University’s School of Physics. & Astronomy.
âFuture technologies, such as quantum computers, will require a new generation of magnets with additional properties to increase storage and processing capacities. Our research is a step towards creating those âmagnetic metamaterialsâ that can meet this need. “