Researchers Find A New Way Which Could Make Fool's Gold Valuable

Researchers Find A New Way Which Could Make Fool’s Gold Valuable

In a groundbreaking new study, a team of researchers from University of Minnesota have electrically converted the abundant and low-cost non-magnetic material iron sulfide, also known as “fool’s gold” or pyrite, into a magnetic material. This new study has been published in the peer-reviewed Science Advances Journal

“Most people knowledgeable in magnetism would probably say it was impossible to electrically transform a non-magnetic material into a magnetic one,” Chris Leighton, the lead researcher on the study, said in a university statement. “When we looked a little deeper, however, we saw a potential route, and made it happen.”

Leighton and his team, including Eray Aydil at New York University and Laura Gagliardi (chemistry) at the University of Minnesota, have been studying fool’s gold for a very long time.

Leighton and his group were working on two things. The first one was to use abundant and low-cost iron sulfide in making cheap solar cells. The second was using electrical voltages to control the magnetic properties of materials for potential applications in magnetic data storage devices (magnetoionics). They then tried to combine these two research directions.

Leighton said their goal was to manipulate the magnetic properties of materials with a voltage alone, with very little electrical current, which is important to make magnetic devices more energy-efficient.

The team achieved turning off and on ferromagnetism which is the most important magnetism for technology. The most important achievement is to convert an entirely non-magnetic material, iron sulfide into a ferromagnetic material.

In the study, the researchers used a technique called electrolyte gating.

They kept iron sulfide material in a device in contact with an ionic solution, or electrolyte, comparable to Gatorade. They then applied 1 volt and moved positively charged molecules to the interface between the electrolyte and the iron sulfide and in this way they successfully induced magnetism. They were also able to switch off the voltage and get back iron sulfide to its normal stage.

The team was amazed by this result. They never expected this would happen and give the credits to their research on iron sulfide and magnetoionics.

“It was the perfect convergence of two areas of research,” Leighton said.

This technique basically can switch a non-magnetic iron sulfide into a magnetic material and back to normal. This can have an enormous number of applications and it can reduce costs as it used abundant iron sulfide.

Journal Reference:
Jeff Walter et al. Voltage-induced ferromagnetism in a diamagnet, Science Advances (2020). DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abb7721

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top