AMBER researchers discover 22 new types of magnets

14 Apr 2017

Magnetic field in action. Image: pippeeContributor/Shutterstock

In the past year alone, researchers at the AMBER centre in Trinity have identified not one, but 22 new magnets.

It seems that in the world of materials science, we have not even scratched the surface of what new wonder materials such as graphene can do.

Earlier this month, the AMBER centre in Trinity College Dublin revealed a new method of printing electronics in 2D for the first time using graphene, potentially leading to smart food labels.

20 times faster than last 2,000 years

Now, as part of an international collaboration, the centre has made a major breakthrough in the discovery of new magnets that could have a multitude of uses in the electronics industry.

Led by Prof Stefano Sanvito, the researchers have published their findings in the journal Science Advances, proving that they have identified 22 new magnets over the course of the past year.

This rate of discovery is about 20 times faster than that achieved in the last 2,000 years, in which time we have discovered around 2,000 magnetic materials, averaging one per year.

Typically, researchers spend considerable amounts of time trying to make approximately 300,000 new hypothetical materials in a lab.

However, Sanvito and his team used advanced computer simulations to combine powerful databases, in order to predict the properties of these 300,000 materials and then advise which ones were likely to work best for particular applications.

This allows them to determine whether a material might be best suited to solar applications or aerospace design materials, for example.

One outstanding candidate

According to Sanvito, Co2MnTi shows real potential for high-tech applications as it displays a very high ordering temperature of about 630 degrees Celsius.

This makes it ideal for uses in extreme heat, suitable for the aerospace industry or in electrical motors for hybrid cars.

As current high-performing magnets are made from rare Earth minerals, the materials science community is now actively seeking some other artificial candidates to prevent a supply collapse.

“The discovery of new magnets is important because they form part of everyday applications, from computers to wind turbines, the electrical motors in our cars, kitchen blenders and lawnmowers,” Sanvito said.

“However, there are several technologies for which we still need to find the ideal magnet, which could provide, for example, more energy-efficient, non-volatile magnetic storage, such as hard discs, and more energy-efficient motors in hybrid cars.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic