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
SEP 10, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
Major advance demonstrated in X-ray crystallographic sample techniques
SEP 10, 2020
Major advance demonstrated in X-ray crystallographic sample techniques
New research published in Nature Communications has corroborated a technique using a microfluidic droplet generator that ...
SEP 16, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
Sub-nanoparticle catalysts prove effective
SEP 16, 2020
Sub-nanoparticle catalysts prove effective
Researchers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology have developed a technique to control the size and composition of sub-n ...
SEP 18, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
Molecule take images of itself with its own electrons
SEP 18, 2020
Molecule take images of itself with its own electrons
A new study published in Physical Review Letters highlights the development of an approach to observe time-dependent cha ...
SEP 24, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
Turning Pulsars into Deep Space Beacons
SEP 24, 2020
Turning Pulsars into Deep Space Beacons
Navigating beyond Earth's orbit is tricky. Any misstep in movement could lead to the crushes of space probes and ves ...
SEP 30, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
Re-engineering elastomers
SEP 30, 2020
Re-engineering elastomers
A study entitled "Chelation Crosslinking of Biodegradable Elastomers," highlights the development of a framewo ...
OCT 17, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
Improving carbon capture technologies using membranes
OCT 17, 2020
Improving carbon capture technologies using membranes
Researchers from the International Institute for Carbo-Neutral Energy Research (I2CNER), Kyushu University and NanoMembr ...
Loading Comments...