Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Subtle electronic effect in magnetite discovered: Long-standing puzzle in study of magnetism finally solved

Date:
December 29, 2011
Source:
University of Edinburgh
Summary:
A fundamental problem that has long puzzled scientists has been solved after more than 70 years. An international team of researchers has discovered a subtle electronic effect in magnetite, the most magnetic of all naturally occurring minerals. The effect causes a dramatic change to how this material conducts electricity at very low temperatures.

A fundamental problem that has long puzzled scientists has been solved after more than 70 years. An international team of researchers has discovered a subtle electronic effect in magnetite, the most magnetic of all naturally occurring minerals. The effect causes a dramatic change to how this material conducts electricity at very low temperatures.

Related Articles


The discovery gives new insight into the mineral in which magnetism was discovered, and it may enable magnetite and similar materials to be exploited in new ways.

Ancient knowledge

Magnetite's properties have been known for more than 2000 years and gave rise to the original concepts of magnets and magnetism. The mineral has formed the basis for decades of research into magnetic recording and information storage materials.

The research was led by the University in collaboration with the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) in Grenoble, France, where the experiments were conducted. Their results were published in Nature.

Unexplained behaviour

In 1939, Dutch scientist Evert Verwey discovered that the electrical conductivity of magnetite decreases abruptly and dramatically at low temperatures. At about 125 Kelvin, or minus 150 degrees Celsius, the metallic mineral turns into an insulator.

Despite many efforts, until now the reason for this transition has been debated and remained controversial.

X-ray experiment

The team of scientists fired an intense X-ray beam at a tiny crystal of magnetite at very low temperatures. Their results enabled them to understand a subtle rearrangement of the mineral's chemical structure. Electrons are trapped within groups of three iron atoms, where they can no longer transport an electrical current.

"We have solved a fundamental problem in understanding the original magnetic material, upon which everything we know about magnetism is built," said Professor Paul Attfield, Centre for Science at Extreme Conditions. "This vital insight into how magnetite is constructed and how it behaves will help in the development of future electronic and magnetic technologies."

The research was funded by the Science and Technology Facilities Council, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, and the Leverhulme Trust.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Edinburgh. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal References:

  1. Mark S. Senn, Jon P. Wright, J. Paul Attfield. Charge order and three-site distortions in the Verwey structure of magnetite. Nature, 2011; DOI: 10.1038/nature10704
  2. J. Paul Attfield. Condensed-matter physics: A fresh twist on shrinking materials. Nature, 2011; 480 (7378): 465 DOI: 10.1038/480465a

Cite This Page:

University of Edinburgh. "Subtle electronic effect in magnetite discovered: Long-standing puzzle in study of magnetism finally solved." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 29 December 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/12/111221140345.htm>.
University of Edinburgh. (2011, December 29). Subtle electronic effect in magnetite discovered: Long-standing puzzle in study of magnetism finally solved. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 19, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/12/111221140345.htm
University of Edinburgh. "Subtle electronic effect in magnetite discovered: Long-standing puzzle in study of magnetism finally solved." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/12/111221140345.htm (accessed April 19, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Matter & Energy News

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

At Least 15 Injured in a California Natural Gas Pipeline Explosion

At Least 15 Injured in a California Natural Gas Pipeline Explosion

Reuters - US Online Video (Apr. 18, 2015) At least 15 injred after natural gas transmission line ruptures in Fresno, California. Julie Noce reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
NASA Electric Rover Goes for a Spin

NASA Electric Rover Goes for a Spin

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Apr. 17, 2015) NASA&apos;s prototype electric buggy could influence future space rovers and conventional cars. Jim Drury reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Scientists Create Self-Powering Camera

Scientists Create Self-Powering Camera

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Apr. 17, 2015) American scientists build a self-powering camera that captures images without using an external power source, allowing it to operate indefinitely in a well-lit environment. Elly Park reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
The State Of Virtual Reality

The State Of Virtual Reality

Newsy (Apr. 17, 2015) Virtual Reality is still a young industry. What’s on offer and what should we expect from our immersive new future? Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins