Creating magnetic superatoms

On the left, the mass spectra of clusters show the existence of the Na7V- superatoms. The middle graphical representation details the geometrical structure and the electronic orbitals in the cluster with the far right showing the D-orbitals that breed the magnetic character. Credit: Shiv Khanna, Ph.D.

Sounding like something out of a comic book, superatoms are not only an enticing idea, but experiments have confirmed they exist. Scientists at Virginia Commonwealth University have collaborated with scientists from Johns Hopkins University to synthesize the first magnetic superatoms.

The existence of magnetic superatoms was previously predicted by the group at VCU and collaborators in a paper appearing in Nature Chemistry. The current work now shows that superatoms can be synthesized.

Superatoms are small clusters of atoms that can imitate various elements in the periodic table. They are the potential building blocks for nanostructured materials that one day may be used to create molecular electronic devices for the next generation of faster computers with larger memory storage.

“The work at VCU has also shown that assemblies of such magnetic species could lead to novel electronic systems with potential applications in spintronics, an area where new devices for memory and data processing using electron spin can be synthesized,” said Shiv N. Khanna, Ph.D., Commonwealth professor in the Department of Physics, part of the VCU College of Humanities and Sciences. “The creation of such magnetic species opens the pathway to these and other applications.” Via Creating magnetic superatoms.

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