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Scientists and engineers of the University of Minnesota have transformed electrically iron sulfide , a material abundant known as pyrite or “ fool’s gold ” -for its similarity with this, although its value is much lower – in a magnetic material. This is the first time that transforms an element is non-magnetic in another that is, what could be a new step to build new components to improve, for example, the memory of the computers with an expenditure of energy more efficient. The results are published in the journal “Science Advances”.
“most of The people with knowledge in magnetism they will most likely say that it is impossible to transform electrically a non-magnetic material in each magnetic . However, when we look a little further, we saw a potential route and made it happen,” says Chris Leighton , principal investigator of the study and a professor of the University of McKnight in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science from the University of Minnesota.
Mezlcando two approaches
Leighton and his colleagues, including Eray Aydil, of the University of New York, and Laura Gagliardi, chemistry in the University of Minnesota, have been studying the iron sulfide during more than a decade for their potential use in solar cells. Sulfur in particular is a product highly abundant and low cost oil production. But, for the moment, still have not found the key.
“Really we went back to the material of sulfide of iron to try to uncover the fundamental obstacles to solar cells, cheap and not toxic,” says Leighton-. Meanwhile, my group was also working in the emerging field of magnetoiónica , where we try to use electrical voltages to control the magnetic properties of the materials for potential applications in data storage devices magnetic. At some point we realized that we should combine these two research directions. And it was worth it”.
Leighton explains that his goal was to manipulate the magnetic properties of the materials with a voltage-only, with very little electric current, which is important to ensure that the magnetic devices are more energy efficient. The progress to date had included turn on and off the ferromagnetism in other types of magnetic materials. However, the iron-sulfur offered the possibility to induce ferromagnetism potentially electric in a material that is completely non-magnetic.
Activation of electrolyte
In the study, the researchers used a technique called activation of electrolytes . They took the material of sulfide of iron is non-magnetic and put it in a device in contact with a solution of the ionic or electrolyte. Then they applied just 1 volt (less voltage than a battery domestic), moved molecules positively charged at the interface between the electrolyte and the sulfide of iron, and induced magnetism. It is important to note that they were able to turn off the voltage and return the material to its state is non-magnetic, which means that can activate and deactivate the magnetism of reversibly.
“We were quite surprised that it worked,” says Leighton. “When you apply the voltage, essentially pour electrons in the material . It turns out that if you get high enough concentrations of electrons, the material to become ferromagnetic spontaneously. This has a lot of potential, because we believe that we can do it with other materials.”
Leighton asserts that the next step is further research to replicate the process at higher temperatures, so that the preliminary data from the team suggest that it certainly should be possible. They also expect to test the process with other materials and to demonstrate potential for real-world devices.
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