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Engineering Magnetic Anisotropy in Nanostructured 3d and 4f Ferromagnets


Due to the increased demand for clean energy in recent years, there is a need for the scientific community to develop technology to harvest thermal energy which is ubiquitous but mostly wasted in our environment. However, there is still no efficient approach to harvest thermal energy to date. In this study, the theory of thermomagnetic energy harvesting is reviewed and unique applications of multiferroics (ferromagnetic plus ferroelectric) are introduced. Based on an efficiency analysis using experimentally measured magneto-thermal properties of 3d transitional and 4f rare earth ferromagnetic elements, the idea of using single domain ferromagnetic elements to obtain higher thermomagnetic conversion efficiencies is proposed. In order to fabricate a ferromagnetic single domain, the magnetic anisotropy of gadolinium (Gd) and nickel (Ni) is engineered at the nanoscale. Both thin films and nanostructures are fabricated and characterized with a focus on the change of magnetic anisotropy governed by shape, crystal structure, and strain. The fabrication processes include sputtering, e-beam lithography (writing and evaporation), and focused ion beam milling. Characterization techniques involving atomic/magnetic force microscopy, energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy, magneto-optical Kerr effect magnetometry, superconducting quantum interference device magnetometry, scanning/transmission electron microscopy, and X-ray diffraction will also be discussed. Experimental results show that the magnetic domain structure of nanostructured Ni can be stably controlled with geometric constraints or by strain induced via electric field. The magnetic properties of nanostructured Gd, on the other hand, is sensitive to crystal structure. These results provide critical information toward the use of ferromagnetic nanostructures in thermomagnetic energy harvesting and multiferroic applications.

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