Watching the Birth of Magnetism
Physicists have devised a material that allows them to study the birth and evolution of magnetism. This is analogous to understanding how a caterpillar becomes a butterfly. Without understanding the key transitional point in its lifecycle, a butterfly just seems to appear fully formed. For butterflies, we need to discover and study a chrysalis. Taking this cue from nature, scientists have developed ytterbium—bismuth—platinum (YbBiPt) and used a magnetic field to suppress a non-magnetic, metallic state and study how a non‐magnetic metal develops magnetic properties. This can be done with minimal interference from other effects by forcing this event to happen as close to absolute zero temperature as possible. Even though this birth takes place at extremely low temperature, the fluctuations (ripples) associated with it are thought to be key to high temperature events, such as superconducting transitions at 50 or 100 K in copper or iron based systems. Researchers performed careful, systematic measurements of the temperature and magnetic field dependencies of the properties of YbBiPt to map out the birth and evolution of magnetism. This work clearly identifies where and how this rare event takes place.