Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
In materials that exhibit antiferromagnetism, the spins of magnetic electrons align in a regular pattern with neighboring spins pointing in opposite directions. This is the opposite of ferromagnetism. Generally, antiferromagnetic materials exhibit antiferromagnetism at a low temperature, and become disordered above a certain temperature; the transition temperature is called the Neel temperature. Above the Neel temperature, the material is typically paramagnetic.
The antiferromagnetic behaviour at low temperature usually results in diamagnetic properties, but can sometimes display ferrimagnetic behaviour, which in many physically observable properties is more similar to ferromagnetic interactions.
The magnetic susceptibility of an antiferromagnetic material will appear to go through a maximum as the temperature is lowered; in contrast, that of a paramagnet will continually increase with decreasing temperature.
Antiferromagnetic materials have low geometrical frustration, and a negative coupling between adjacent moments.
Antiferromagnetic materials are relatively uncommon. An example is the heavy-fermion superconductor URu2Si2. More everyday examples include metals such as chromium, alloys such as Iron Manganese (FeMn), and oxides such as Nickel Oxide (NiO). There are also numerous examples among high nuclearity metal clusters.
Antiferromagnets can also couple to ferromagnetic materials through a mechanism known as exchange anisotropy , in which the ferromagnetic film is either grown upon the antiferromagnet or annealed in an aligning magnetic field, causing the surface atoms of the ferromagnet to align with the surface atoms of the antiferromagnet. This provides the ability to "pin" the orientation of a ferromagnetic film, which provides one of the main uses in so-called spin valves , which are the basis of magnetic sensors including modern hard drive read heads.
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