A discovery about magnetism can open the door to huge savings

A discovery about magnetism can open the door to huge savings

Scientists from the Ames National Laboratory and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory of the US Department of Energy conducted an in-depth investigation of the layered topological material “Kagome TbMn6Sn6” to better understand its magnetic characteristics. These findings could impact future technological advances in quantum computing, magnetic storage media, and high-precision sensors.

The research is discussed in the article “Low-temperature competing magnetic energy scales in the topological ferrimagnet TbMn6Sn6”, published in Physical Review X. The “kagome” are a type of material whose structure takes its name from a traditional Japanese weaving technique of baskets. The weave produces a pattern of hexagons surrounded by triangles and vice versa. The arrangement of the atoms in the Kagome metals reproduces the weaving motif. This feature causes the electrons within the material to behave in unique ways.

Kagome basket

Kagome structure

Solid materials have electromagnetic properties controlled by their electronic band structure. The band structure strongly depends on the geometry of the atomic lattice and, at times, the bands can take on particular shapes, such as cones. These special shapes, called topological features, are responsible for the unique behavior of electrons in these materials. The Kagome structure, in particular, leads to complex and potentially adjustable characteristics in electronic bands.

The use of magnetic atoms to construct the lattice of these materials, such as the Mn in TbMn6Sn6, can further contribute to inducing topological features. Rob McQueeney, Ames Lab scientist and project manager, explained that topological materials “they have a special property whereby, under the influence of magnetism, currents flowing on the edge of the material can be obtained, which are devoid of dissipation, which means that the electrons do not disperse and do not dissipate energy “.

The team sought to better understand the magnetism of TbMn6Sn6 and used the calculations and neutron scattering data collected by the Oak Ridge Spallation Neutron Source to conduct their analysis. Simon Riberolles, post-doc research associate at Ames Lab and a member of the project team, explained the experimental technique used by the team. The technique involves a beam of neutron particles that is used to check the stiffness of the magnetic order. “The nature and strength of the different magnetic interactions in materials can be mapped with this technique,” he said.

They found that TbMn6Sn6 has competing interactions between the layers, or what is called frustrated magnetism. “Usually this means that if you turn him on, you can make him do different things. But what we have discovered in this material is that even if there are these competing interactions, there are other interactions that are dominant ”.

This is the first detailed investigation into the magnetic properties of the TbMn6Sn6 to be published. “In research, it’s always exciting when you understand something new or measure something that hasn’t been seen before or that has been understood partially or differently,” said Riberolles.

McQueeney and Riberolles explained that their results suggest that the material could be tuned for specific magnetic characteristics, for example by changing the Tb to a different rare earth element, which would change the compound’s magnetism. This fundamental research paves the way for continued advances in the discovery of Kagome metals.

This is only the first step, taken. The results of this search will likely apply to a longer list than the one above. Electromagnets and electrical coils or wires that go around something serve to create a magnetic field. The basic problem is that these wires are long and experience “line loss” like heat. Millions of copper wire-based generators are in use today. Using a metal conductor with a Kagome structure means reducing electrical losses and their transformation into heat to a minimum. The prospect of energy savings is huge.

These magnets drive motors and transformers power homes and businesses, as well as a huge list of other applications.

This is an important job for energy saving and to make more energy available for less electricity. We hope that the work of this team will accelerate and offer ever greater and soon scalable results.

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