A key challenge of nanotechnology research is investigating how different materials behave at lengths of merely one-billionth of a meter. When shrunk to such tiny sizes, many everyday materials exhibit interesting and potentially beneficial new properties.
Magnetic behavior is one such phenomenon that can change significantly depending on the size of the material. However, the sheer challenge of observing the magnetic properties of nanoscale material has impeded further study of the topic.
Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have developed and demonstrated a new method for detecting the magnetic behaviors of nanomaterials. They created a new process for growing a single multi-walled carbon nanotube that is embedded with cobalt nanostructures. The cobalt clusters measure from 1 nanometer to 10 nanometers.
Pictured is a rendering depicting cobalt nanoclusters embedded in multi-walled carbon nanotubes. Photo Credit: Image : Saikat Talapatra/Caterina Soldano
"Since the cobalt clusters in our system are embedded inside the nanotube rather than on the surface, they do not cause electron scattering and thus do not seem to impact the attractive conductive properties of the host carbon nanotube," said Swastik Kar, research assistant professor in Rensselaer's Department of Physics, Applied Physics,&Astronomy, who led the project. "From a fundamental point of view, these hybrid nanostructures belong to a new class of magnetic materials."
Pictured is a scanning electron micrograph of cobalt nanoclusters embedded in multi-walled carbon nanotubes. Researchers at Rensselaer used these new hybrid structures, the first of their kind, to detect magnetism at the nanoscale. Photo Credit: Image : Saikat Talapatra/Caterina Soldano
Potential applications for such a material include new generations of nanoscale conductance sensors, along with new advances in digital storage devices, spintronics, and selective drug delivery components.
Results of the study were reported in the paper "Detection of Nanoscale Magnetic Activity Using a Single Carbon Nanotube" recently published by Nano Letters.