February 4, 2023


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Rare earth metals are recycled on demand.  What is behind complex experiences?

Rare earth metals are recycled on demand. What is behind complex experiences?

Let’s start with the fact that representatives of Ohio University, University of Illinois at Chicago, and Argonne National Laboratory are behind the entire project. We can read about the details of their research on the pages Nature Communicationsalthough one should be prepared for the fact that the description of the experiments carried out is somewhat complicated.

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Rare earth metals are essential for high-tech applications including cell phones, HD televisions, and more. This is the first time that rare metal complexes with both positive and negative charges have formed on the surface of a metal, and it is also the first demonstration of atomic-level control of their spin.
explains Saw-Wai Hla, lead author of the study

The experiment would not have been possible without the use of two scanning electron microscopes operating at extremely low temperatures. Suffice it to mention that the analyzes were carried out at a temperature of about 268 degrees Celsius. The researchers also maintained an ultrahigh vacuum while studying the behavior of particles two nanometers in diameter.

The entire project took place in two different locations: facilities of the Argonne National Laboratory and Ohio University. The aim was to ensure that the results obtained were the same, which would translate into the desired repeatability. Positively charged europium particles and negatively charged reflections on the gold surface played the main role. In the presence of an electric field emitted by a scanning electron microscope, the molecules rotate. Most importantly, the scientists had complete control over the direction of these cycles.

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High-resolution instrument imaging revealed a distorted triangle-like structure with three arms. Scanning electron microscopy also made it possible to further demonstrate control rotation, which is characterized by clockwise and counterclockwise rotation at the tip.

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This should provide many potential and practical applications. We are mainly talking about the development of nanomechanical devices, the building blocks of which are used for precise motion control. As Hla concludes, his team has shown that it is possible to rotate charged rare earth metal complexes on a metal’s surface, making it easier to analyze their electronic, structural and mechanical properties.