Nanocomposite materials seem to flout conventions of physics. In the latest example of surprising behavior, reported* by scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and Brookhaven National Laboratory, a class of nanostructured materials that are key components of computer memories and other important technologies undergo a previously unrecognized shift in the rate at which magnetization changes at low temperatures.
The team suggests that the apparent anomaly described as an "upturn" in magnetization may be due to the quantum mechanical process known as Bose-Einstein condensation. They maintain that, in nanostructured magnets, energy waves called magnons coalesce into a common ground state and, in effect, become one. This collective identity, the researchers say, results in magnetic behavior seemingly at odds with a long-standing theory.
The new finding could prompt a reassessment of test methods used to predict technologically important properties of "ferromagnetic" materials. The results also could point the way to marked improvements in the performance of microwave devices. Magnets are integral to these devices, used in a variety of communication and defense technologies.
Mark Bello | EurekAlert!
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