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5 December 2013 11:26 am ,
Vol. 342 ,
Dyslexia, a learning disability that hinders reading, hasn't been associated with deficits in vision, hearing, or...
Exotic, elusive, and dangerous, snakes have fascinated humankind for millennia. They can be hard to find, yet their...
Researchers have sequenced and analyzed the first two snake genomes, which represent two evolutionary extremes. The...
Snake venoms are remarkably complex mixtures that can stun or kill prey within minutes. But more and more researchers...
At age 30, Dutch biologist Freek Vonk has built up a respectable career as a snake scientist. But in his home country,...
Since arriving on the island of Guam in the 1940s, the brown tree snake ( Boiga irregularis ) has extirpated native...
An animal rights group known as the Nonhuman Rights Project filed lawsuits in three New York courts this week in an...
Researchers have been hot on the trail of the elusive Denisovans, a type of ancient human known only by their DNA and...
- 5 December 2013 11:26 am , Vol. 342 , #6163
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Carbon Magnets Get Hot
17 October 2001 7:00 pm
A team of researchers has created the first purely organic magnet that works above room temperature. The new magnet, described in the 18 October issue of Nature, is made from spherical carbon molecules called fullerenes or buckyballs. If the feat can be repeated with cheaper organics such as plastics--a big if--it could pave the way for lightweight flexible magnets that could revolutionize everything from computer data storage to what we use to pin photos to our refrigerators.
Though magnets have been made from iron-based minerals such as lodestone and ferrites for centuries, organics have only recently been put to work. In 1991, Japanese researchers found that a nitrogen- and oxygen-containing organic acted as a powerful magnet, with a major drawback: It did so only at temperatures just above absolute zero. A more practical carbon magnet, researchers hope, might open the door to other organic magnets, like those made of plastic--a cheaper, more flexible, and lighter alternative to iron magnets.
Tatiana Makarova, a physicist at the Ioffe Physico-Technical Institute in St. Petersburg, Russia, who is spending a year in Sweden at Umea University, crafted the organic magnet by chance. Two years ago she was trying to design a superconductor with a polymerized form of C60, created by fusing neighboring C60 molecules in a high-pressure device. Though the superconductor didn't materialize, Makarova and colleagues from Russia, Germany, and Brazil found that the C60 polymer was magnetic up to oven temperature, 230°C, and stable in air. "We didn't believe it, and thought there must have been some impurities," Makarova says. But tests on multiple purified samples since then have erased her doubts.
"If true, it's an exciting result," says Joel Miller, an organic magnet expert at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. Miller says he still wonders whether impurities are skewing the results, a question that should be answered as other teams try to repeat the experiment. C60 magnets aren't likely to have much practical value because the fullerene is expensive and only tiny amounts can be polymerized at a time.