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Researchers have found that “crazy gold” could be really valuable



Researchers at the University of Minnesota have found a way to make “crazy gold” more attractive.

According to a new study, they have become magnetic.

“Most people with knowledge of magnetism would probably say that it is not possible to electrically transform non-magnetic material into magnetic material,” said Chris Leighton, a research scientist in a university statement. “But when we looked a little deeper, we saw a possible path and made it.”

Sample of pyrite and quartz from USGS.  A new study says a team of scientists has found a way to do it

Sample of pyrite and quartz from USGS. A new study says a team of scientists has found a way to magnetize “crazy gold.”
(Carlin Green, USGS. Public Domain.)

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The study appeared Wednesday in the peer-reviewed journal Science Advances.

“Fool’s gold,” a cheap substance also known as pyrite, is often found in quartz veins and, according to a U.S. geological survey, is used primarily to produce sulfuric acid for industrial applications.

The University of Minnesota team was researching ways to test the production of new types of solar panels from sulfur and iron sulfide materials, Leighton said. And they began to explore ways to use voltage to control magnetism.

Courtesy University of Minnesto Gold background.  Golden nugget.  Project background.  macro

Courtesy University of Minnesto Gold background. Golden nugget. Project background. macro

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“At some point, we realized that we should combine these two research directions, and it paid off,” he said.

The result is the first time scientists have been able to take non-magnetic material and make it magnetic, according to the university.

They used a process called “electrolytic deposition” – using an electrolyte-rich solution “comparable to Gatorade” and small applications of electric volts that moved around the molecules and made the substance magnetic.

“We were quite surprised that it worked,” Leighton said.

“By applying voltage, we basically pour electrons into the material,” he explained. “It turns out that if you reach a sufficiently high concentration of electrons, the material wants to spontaneously become ferromagnetic (potential magnets), which we were able to understand in theory.”

And this technique could have even more applications.

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“It has a lot of potential,” Leighton said. “When we did it with iron sulfide, we think we can do it with other materials.”


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