New Magnetism Discovered By Scientists

By Jason Collins | Published

The magnets are super fun, and for such simple devices, they’re quite versatile. Magnets are on your fridge, in your hard drives, in the lids on your laptops, in our credit cards, pocket compasses, etc. However, as versatile as they are, all magnets work on the same principle, which has been a constant until now. Scientists have found a new type of magnetism that was proposed in 1966 by Japanese scientist Yosuke Nagaoka—a principle dubbed Nagaoka’s ferromagnetism.

New Type Of Magnetism Flies In The Face Of Conventional Wisdom

Scientists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology finally observed Nagaoka’s ferromagnetism in a specially engineered material known as a moire lattice. This lattice is formed using incredibly thin 2-nanometer (0.00000007874 inches) sheets using layers of molybdenum diselenide and tungsten disulfide. They discovered that the material exhibited more magnetic properties when it had more electrons than the available lattice sites, which doesn’t adhere to Nagaoka’s original model but also contradicts conventional theories of magnetism.

Magnets, How Do They Work?

Now, this sounds like a bunch of Star Trek technobabble to an untrained mind, so allow us to break it down. When electrons in typical magnets, like those made of iron, align their spins due to external magnetic force, they create a permanent magnetic field that persists even when the external force is removed. However, recent observations of Nagaoka’s theory suggest that these magnetism interactions aren’t as straightforward as we once thought. They’re particularly complex, especially when more electrons are within the lattice than electron “slots.”

It’s All About The Electrons

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The new study in magnetism found that when a lattice that has been oversaturated with electrons gets exposed to an external magnetic field, the extra electrons within the lattice spread out and form temporary pairings. In other words, their spins align, which doesn’t happen in conventional magnets, as no two electrons can simultaneously occupy the same quantum state. In other words, their spins don’t align. Well, that myth has been busted now, and the electrons with aligned spins form doubloons, creating localized magnetic regions within the material.

These Magnets Aren’t Available To The Public

This discovery in the field of magnetism is rather crucial, as it demonstrates another unique magnetic behavior. Unfortunately, it still has no practical applications due to environmental limitations. Namely, it requires an extremely low temperature of 140 millikelvins, approximately -459.42°F, or very close to absolute zero temperature. These low temperatures aren’t achievable in domestic settings, and most equipment capable of generating those conditions is still limited to research and development departments.

The Impossible Future Of Magnets

However, the new breakthrough in magnetism opens new gates for research in solid-state physics, particularly the development of new superconductivity mechanisms, a phenomenon related to lossless thermal and electrical conductivity within materials. This is a massive step forward in material science, with plenty of insight that could lead to innovative applications in the future. Not only that, but this research also opens the gates to more advanced electronics, quantum computing, magnetic field manipulations (medicine), and even more advanced nanotechnology.

And all that just because someone conducting a magnetism study decided to shave down a magnetic material to about six atoms thin. Eureka!

Source: Nature