July 8, 2008 Tiny changes at the nanometer scale can have a colossal effect on the properties of a material, and for the first time researchers may have a method to see and even predict those changes.
For example, by applying a magnetic field to certain single-crystal materials, researchers measure an enormous – seemingly disproportionate – change in the magnetoresistance. "That doesn't sound very interesting until you remember that your computer hard drive relies on giant magnetoresistance," said Zac Ward, lead author of a paper published in Physical Review Letters and a member of the Materials Science and Technology Division.
By applying the concept of complexity to the study of materials at the nanoscale, scientists hope to be able to see the interrelations between base components and tune the materials to create previously unseen properties.
"If we are able to unravel exactly how everything at the atomic level interacts we should be able to better engineer devices from materials that are based on complexity," Ward said. Co-authors are Jian Shen, Shuhua Liang, Kenji Fuchigami, Lifeng Yin, Elbio Dagotto and Ward Plummer.
The research was funded by the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation.
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