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Discovery of material with amazing properties
Date:6/24/2012

Normally a material can be either magnetically or electrically polarized, but not both. Now researchers at the Niels Bohr Institute at the University of Copenhagen have studied a material that is simultaneously magnetically and electrically polarizable. This opens up new possibilities, for example, for sensors in technology of the future. The results have been published in the scientific journal, Nature Materials.

Materials that can be both magnetically and electrically polarized and also have additional properties are called multiferroics and were previously discovered by Russian researchers in the 1960s. But the technology to examine the materials did not exist at that time. It is only now, in recent years, that researchers have once again focused on analyzing the properties of such materials. Now you have research facilities that can analyze the materials down to the atomic level.

Surprising test results

"We have studied the rare, naturally occurring iron compound, TbFeO3, using powerful neutron radiation in a magnetic field. The temperature was cooled down to near absolute zero, minus 271 C. We were able to identify that the atoms in the material are arranged in a congruent lattice structure consisting of rows of the heavy metal terbium separated by iron and oxygen atoms. Such lattices are well known, but their magnetic domains are new. Normally, the magnetic domains lie a bit helter-skelter, but here we observed that they lay straight as an arrow with the same distance between them. We were completely stunned when we saw it," explains Kim Lefmann, Associate Professor at the Nano-Science Center, University of Copenhagen.

They were very strange and very beautiful measurements and it is just such a discovery that can awaken the researchers' intense interest. Why does it look like this?

Explaining physics

The experiments were conducted at the neutron research facility Helmholtz-Zentrum in Berl
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Contact: Gertie Skaarup
45-35-32-53-20
University of Copenhagen
Source:Eurekalert  

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