AUG 03, 2020 1:06 PM PDT

How to make fool's gold magnetic

Research published in Science Advances reports the conversion of fool’s gold into a useful magnetic material. Fool’s gold is actually iron sulfide, a non-magnetic, inexpensive and abundant material that is a byproduct of petroleum production. However, through an electric transformation of iron sulfide, University of Minnesota engineers have made iron sulfide magnetic, thus opening the door for a process through which new magnetic materials could be developed.

Photo: Pixabay

"Most people knowledgeable in magnetism would probably say it was impossible to electrically transform a non-magnetic material into a magnetic one. When we looked a little deeper, however, we saw a potential route, and made it happen," said lead research Chris Leighton, who is a University of Minnesota Distinguished McKnight University Professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science.

The University of Minnesota team has been interested in iron sulfide for a time because of its potential in solar cells. "We really went back to the iron sulfide material to try to figure out the fundamental roadblocks to cheap, non-toxic solar cells," Leighton elaborated. He worked with Eray Aydil at New York University and Laura Gagliardi from the chemistry department at the University of Minnesota on this project.

"Meanwhile, my group was also working in the emerging field of magnetoionics where we try to use electrical voltages to control magnetic properties of materials for potential applications in magnetic data storage devices. At some point we realized we should be combining these two research directions, and it paid off."

Utilizing a technique called electrolyte gating, the researchers manipulated iron sulfide with a low voltage in an electrolyte solution to induce ferromagnetism. They were able to use this method to turn the material’s magnetism on and off.

"We were pretty surprised it worked," Leighton said. "By applying the voltage, we essentially pour electrons into the material. It turns out that if you get high enough concentrations of electrons, the material wants to spontaneously become ferromagnetic, which we were able to understand with theory. This has lots of potential. Having done it with iron sulfide, we guess we can do it with other materials as well."

The researcher plan to continue their investigations by attempting to replicate the process at higher temperatures and with other materials that.

Sources: Science Advances, Science Daily

About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
You May Also Like
MAY 21, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Oxygen Conditions Needed for Emergence of Complex Life Discovered
MAY 21, 2021
Oxygen Conditions Needed for Emergence of Complex Life Discovered
For some time, scientists have supported the ‘Oxygen Control Hypothesis’. The theory states that higher leve ...
JUN 07, 2021
Chemistry & Physics
Are compostable batteries on the horizon?
JUN 07, 2021
Are compostable batteries on the horizon?
Biodegradable batteries represent the holy grail of our current technological obstacles to achieving the transition to a ...
JUL 19, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Hubble Space Telescope Back from the Brink; In Working Condition after Hardware Swap
JUL 19, 2021
Hubble Space Telescope Back from the Brink; In Working Condition after Hardware Swap
After a month-long hiatus from its routine scientific operations, 31-year-old Hubble Space Telescope (HST) is back in wo ...
JUL 23, 2021
Earth & The Environment
It's Very Likely That Clouds Will Make Global Warming Worse
JUL 23, 2021
It's Very Likely That Clouds Will Make Global Warming Worse
For many years scientists have been investigating the role of clouds in global warming. Using satellite measurements to ...
AUG 17, 2021
Earth & The Environment
Air Quality Changes Throughout Lockdowns Prove Optimistic
AUG 17, 2021
Air Quality Changes Throughout Lockdowns Prove Optimistic
COVID-19 lockdowns have reduced human activities and, subsequently, a reduction in air-polluting emissions. Air quality ...
SEP 10, 2021
Space & Astronomy
The Future (and Ethics) of Giant Telescopes
SEP 10, 2021
The Future (and Ethics) of Giant Telescopes
The fate of giant telescopes hangs in the balance as this decade comes to an end.
Loading Comments...