A compound made out of ytterbium (Yb), platinum (Pt), and bismuth (Bi) offers researchers the opportunity to watch the birth of magnetic behavior by applying small changes in magnetic field or temperature. Despite the electrons having effective masses of nearly 10,000 times their normal mass when YbPtBi becomes magnetic, researchers have been able to monitor its quantum oscillations, key for determining important electronic properties. From the results they deduced that as it moves further and further from magnetism its electrons lose weight fast. These findings provide key insight into how materials become magnets, with electrons gaining apparent mass and ultimately settling down to become part of a (in this case, magnetically) ordered state.
Quantum oscillations in the heavy-fermion compound YbPtBi