Specialized student contributes to cutting-edge research in magnetism

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Davis Campbell, center, with research mentors Changsong Xu (left) and Temuujin Bayaraa. All are members of a research team led by physics professor Laurent Bellaiche.

Honors College Fellow Davis Campbell, a physics, mathematics and biochemistry student from Fayetteville, recently contributed to an article published in Physical examination B for work on the behavior of rare earth-iron garnets (RIG) under stress.

The main author of this article was doctoral student Temuujin Bayaraa; postdoctoral researcher Changsong Xu and Department of Physics Professor Laurent Bellaiche also contributed to the research.

Campbell recently presented his own research on the behavior of magnetized RIGs at different temperatures at the Fundamental Physics of Ferroelectrics and Related Materials conference in Silver Spring, Md. On January 28. At the conference, Campbell became the first undergraduate to win the Outstanding Student / Postdoctoral Presentation Award.

“It was really, really unexpected,” recalls Campbell. “I was just trying to do my best and not look bad when talking about my research. I’m very honored and obviously couldn’t have done it without Temuujin, Dr Xu and Dr Bellaiche. Temuujin and Changsong helped me a lot – they must have explained their research before me, so I had a good example from them. “

Campbell, who worked closely with Bayaraa, Xu and Bellaiche on the project, began his research on rare earth and iron garnets during his first year. “After graduating from high school, I was looking for a great group to research with. Before I even started my undergraduate studies, I contacted Dr. Bellaiche about it.”

The team works in condensed matter computational physics, which involves writing, editing, and using code to run simulations to determine the properties of materials under certain conditions. The ultimate goal of the team is to discover behavior models for RIGs under conditions that would allow them to be used in the development of new technologies.

With the help of other members of the research team, Campbell spent a year teaching himself the basics of coding and how to use the software on university-owned supercomputers. He then simulated the behavior of gadolinium-iron garnets by computer applying magnetic fields to the substance at temperatures from 800 degrees to zero degrees Kelvin and observing its response.

“Each atom has its own little magnetic moment,” Campbell said, referring to the source of a magnetic field. “The more energy there is in the system – the higher the temperature – the more sporadic these moments will be. As we cool them down, they will relax a bit, and the same atoms will have their moments all lined up in. the same direction. When we hit zero Kelvin, they’re all perfectly aligned, whether they’re positive or negative. “

Gadolinium-iron garnets are a particularly interesting substance because, the team found, they have a magnetic phase transition – a point at which their magnetic moments switch 180 degrees – around room temperature. This magnetic realignment could potentially be used for an overhaul of electronic devices.

“With semiconductors, we are reaching a natural limit,” added Bellaiche. “They can’t get much better than they are now. If we’re really going to keep improving, we have to do something else. Using unusual magnetic configurations would completely change the architecture of a device – it could go faster, it could store more.

Ultimately, the team is looking for evidence that unusual magnetic configurations can be used as viable media for things like memory storage and spintronics (using the spin of electrons to power a device, rather than a charge. electric). If this were to be proven, the cellphones of the future could run faster and more efficiently using magnetic moments.

And this technology would not be limited to phones: “It would have implications for virtually any computing device; that includes cell phones, computers, microprocessors – anything that has a chip in it, ”Campbell said.

Campbell’s research was funded in part by a SURF scholarship; his journey to and from the Maryland conference was supported by a Specialized College research travel grant.


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