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Materials

Buckyballs Induce Magnetism In Copper And Manganese

Periodic Table: Electron-transfer effect could yield new materials for applications such as computer memory and power generation

by Jyllian Kemsley
August 17, 2015 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 93, ISSUE 32

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Credit: Nature
A C60 nanolayer (green) induces magnetism in copper (orange) via electron transfer from copper to C60 at the interface between the two (blue).
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Credit: Nature
A C60 nanolayer (green) induces magnetism in copper (orange) via electron transfer from copper to C60 at the interface between the two (blue).

Only iron, cobalt, and nickel are permanently magnetic at room temperature, a property known as ferromagnetism that stems from how valence electrons are distributed and interact with each other within the metal. To develop or improve applications that use magnetism, such as computer memory and power generation, researchers would like to induce the property in other elements. Layering C60 on thin films of either copper or manganese successfully makes the metal layers ferromagnetic, reports a team led by Oscar Cespedes of the University of Leeds, in England (Nature 2015, DOI: 10.1038/nature14621). The magnetization arises from electron transfer from the metal to C60, and it’s not limited to layering with buckyballs, Cespedes notes. Other materials with high electron affinity, as well as other metals, will also work. The effect depends on the thickness of the layers: The copper layer must be 2 to 3 nm thick, the manganese layer 2 to 15 nm thick, and the C60 layer 10 to 20 nm thick. The metal’s nonmagnetic bulk properties take over if the layers are too thick, and the magnetization drops off if the assemblies oxidize.

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