Navigation Links
Magnetism's subatomic roots
Date:9/3/2010

The modern world -- with its ubiquitous electronic devices and electrical power -- can trace its lineage directly to the discovery, less than two centuries ago, of the link between electricity and magnetism. But while engineers have harnessed electromagnetic forces on a global scale, physicists still struggle to describe the dance between electrons that creates magnetic fields.

Two theoretical physicists from Rice University are reporting initial success in that area in a new paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Their new conceptual model, which was created to learn more about the quantum quirks of high-temperature superconductors and other high-tech materials, has also proven useful in describing the origins of ferromagnetism -- the everyday "magnetism" of compass needles and refrigerator magnets.

"As a theorist, you strive to have exact solutions, and even though our new model is purely theoretical, it does produce results that match what's observed in the real world," said Rice physicist Qimiao Si, the lead author of the paper. "In that sense, it is reassuring to have designed a model system in which ferromagnetism is allowed."

Ferromagnets are what most people think of as magnets. They're the permanently magnetic materials that keep notes stuck to refrigerators the world over. Scientists have long understood the large-scale workings of ferromagnets, which can be described theoretically from a coarse-grained perspective. But at a deeper, fine-grained level -- down at the scale of atoms and electrons -- the origins of ferromagnetism remain fuzzy.

"When we started on this project, we were aware of the surprising lack of theoretical progress that had been made on metallic ferromagnetism," Si said. "Even a seemingly simple question, like why an everyday refrigerator magnet forms out of electrons that interact with each other, has no rigorous answer."

Si and graduate student Seiji Yamamoto's interest in the foundations of ferromagnetism stemmed from the study of materials that were far from ordinary.

Si's specialty is an area of condensed matter physics that grew out of the discovery more than 20 years ago of high-temperature superconductivity. In 2001, Si offered a new theory to explain the behavior of the class of materials that includes high-temperature superconductors. This class of materials -- known as "quantum correlated matter" -- also includes more than 10 known types of ferromagnetic composites.

Si's 2001 theory and his subsequent work have aimed to explain the experimentally observed behavior of quantum-correlated materials based upon the strangely correlated interplay between electrons that goes on inside them. In particular, he focuses on the correlated electron effect that occur as the materials approach a "quantum critical point," a tipping point that's the quantum equivalent of the abrupt solid-to-liquid change that occurs when ice melts.

The quantum critical point that plays a key role in high-temperature superconductivity is the tipping point that marks a shift to antiferromagnetism, a magnetic state that has markedly different subatomic characteristics from ferromagnetism. Because of the key role in high-temperature superconductivity, most studies in the field have focused on antiferromagnetism. In contrast, ferromagnetism -- the more familiar, everyday form of magnetism -- has received much less attention theoretically in quantum-correlated materials.

"So our initial theoretical question was, 'What would happen, in terms of correlated electron effects, when a ferromagnetic material moves through one of these quantum tipping points?" said Yamamoto, who is now a postdoctoral researcher at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory in Tallahassee, Fla..

To carry out this thought experiment, Si and Yamamoto created a model system that idealizes what exists in nature. Their jumping off point was a well-studied phenomenon known as the Kondo effect -- which also has its roots in quantum magnetic effects. Based on what they knew of this effect, they created a model of a "Kondo lattice," a fine-grained mesh of electrons that behaved like those that had been observed in Kondo studies of real-world materials.

Si and Yamamoto were able to use the model to provide a rigorous answer about the fine-grained origins of metallic ferromagnetism. Furthermore, the ferromagnetic state that was predicted by the model turned out to have quantum properties that closely resemble those observed experimentally in heavy fermion ferromagnets.

"The model is useful because it allows us to predict how real-world materials might behave under a specific set of circumstances," Yamamoto said. "And, in fact, we have been able to use it to explain experimental observations on heavy fermion metals, including both the antiferromagnets as well as the less well understood ferromagnetic materials."


'/>"/>

Contact: David Ruth
druth@rice.edu
713-348-6327
Rice University
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Baby talk: The roots of the early vocabulary in infants learning from speech
2. UV-B light sensing mechanism discovered in plant roots
3. Historical increase in corn yield -- its in the roots
4. LabRoots Launches Social Networking Site for Scientists & Engineers
5. Bolivian rainforest study suggests feeding behavior in monkeys and humans have ancient, shared roots
6. Newly discovered snow roots are evolutionary phenomenon
7. Unique winter-hardy hibiscus has roots with AgriLife Research scientist in Vernon
8. Dung of the devil plant roots point to new swine flu drugs
9. Bilingual babies: The roots of bilingualism in newborns
10. How plants put down roots
11. Roots meshed in waste materials could clean dirty water
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:6/2/2016)... , June 2, 2016 ... Manned Platforms, Unmanned Systems, Physical Infrastructure, Support & Other ... provider visiongain offers comprehensive analysis of the ... this market will generate revenues of $17.98 billion in ... acquired DVTEL Inc, a leader in software and hardware ...
(Date:5/12/2016)... WearablesResearch.com , a brand of Troubadour Research & ... Q1 wave of its quarterly wearables survey. A particular ... a program where they would receive discounts for sharing ... "We were surprised to see that so many ... CEO of Troubadour Research, "primarily because there are segments ...
(Date:4/26/2016)... LONDON , April 26, 2016 ... a product subsidiary of Infosys (NYSE: ... to integrate the Onegini mobile security platform with ... http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20151104/283829LOGO ) The integration will ... to access and transact across channels. Using this ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/24/2016)... ... June 24, 2016 , ... While the majority of commercial spectrophotometers ... 5000 and the 6000i models are higher end machines that use the more unconventional ... spectrophotometer’s light beam from the bottom of the cuvette holder. , FireflySci has ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... CAMBRIDGE, Mass. , June 23, 2016 /PRNewswire/ ... the development of novel compounds designed to target ... compound, napabucasin, has been granted Orphan Drug Designation ... in the treatment of gastric cancer, including gastroesophageal ... cancer stemness inhibitor designed to inhibit cancer stemness ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... , ... June 23, 2016 , ... ... YM (Yeast and Mold) microbial test has received AOAC Research Institute approval 061601. ... microbial tests introduced last year,” stated Bob Salter, Vice President of Regulatory and ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... ... June 23, 2016 , ... Supplyframe, ... of the Supplyframe Design Lab . Located in Pasadena, Calif., the Design ... of how hardware projects are designed, built and brought to market. , The ...
Breaking Biology Technology: