Iridium compounds may react in unexpected way with other transition metals, Rutgers scientists say

<p>Iridium reacts unexpectedly when mixed with related metals.&nbsp;</p>

Iridium reacts unexpectedly when mixed with related metals. 

A Rutgers professor was a senior author in a research project that will cause material sciences and physics experiment interpretations to be reevaluated involving ultra thin iridium-based materials.

Iridium is a chemical element used in spark plugs known for its high melting point and its resistance to corrosion. It is a member of the platinum group, which is commonly used for jewelry and electronics.

Iridium “loses its identity” and its electrons act oddly in an ultra thin film when interfaced with nickel-based layers, which have an unexpectedly strong impact on iridium ions, according to Claud Lovelace, chairman in Experimental Matter Physics in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, and Jak Chakhalian, senior author of a Rutgers-led study in the journal "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences," according to an article in Rutgers Today.

The scientists found that at the interface between a layer containing the element nickel and one with iridium, an unusual form of magnetism emerges that strongly affects the behavior of spin and orbital motion of electrons, according to the article.

Mixing transition metal systems — for example, with nickel and iridium as the transition metals — has been known to potentially yield transition metal compounds with physical properties that cannot have come from the systems alone since at least 2013, according to

The newly discovered behavior is important because quantum materials with very large spin-orbit interaction are popular candidates for novel topological materials and exotic superconductivity, according to Rutgers Today.

Superconductors are conductors with no resistance, which would allow power plants to transmit energy over long distances without losses over wires. Energy loss of transmitted energy on a long wire can be as much as 10%, according to

The scientists also discovered a new kind of magnetic state when they created super thin artificial superstructures containing iridium and nickel. Their findings could lead to greater manipulation of quantum materials and deeper understanding of the quantum state for novel electronics, according to the Rutgers Today article.

“It seems nature has several new tricks that will force scientists to reevaluate theories on these special quantum materials because of our work,” Chakhalian said, according to the article. “Physics by analogy doesn’t work. Our findings call for the careful evaluation and reinterpretation of experiments on ‘spin-orbit physics’ and magnetism when the interfaces or surfaces of materials with platinum group atoms are involved.”

Deep understanding of the phenomenon was achieved thanks to state-of-the-art calculations championed by Rutgers co-authors Michele Kotiuga, a post-doctoral fellow, and professor Karin Rabe, according to the article.

The lead author is Xiaoran Liu, a Moore Foundation EPiQS post-doctoral fellow at Rutgers. Rutgers co-authors also include Heung-Sik Kim, Mikhail Kareev, Fangdi Wen, Banabir Pal, Kristjan Haule and David Vanderbilt. 

Scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Argonne National Laboratory and Chinese Academy of Sciences contributed to the study. The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation supported the experimental part of the study, according to the article.

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