Unknown Capabilities of Common Materials Can Be Utilized Using Big Data
Thu, April 22, 2021

Unknown Capabilities of Common Materials Can Be Utilized Using Big Data

Through big data, researchers were able to uncover the hidden potentials of common materials like nickel / Photo Credit: Borka Kiss (via Shutterstock)


Finding new ways to utilize existing materials is an avenue for innovation, making our phones, computers, and even computer equipment faster, smaller, and more efficient, according to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, via Phys Org, a news platform dedicated to publishing news on science and technology. 

The research was conducted by associate professor of materials science and engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Edwin Fohtung and his colleagues. It was published by Nature Journal NPG Asia Materials. They have discovered a new way of optimizing nickel “by unlocking properties that could enable numerous applications” such as quantum computing and biosensors. 

A huge magnetic field is created when nickel is made into minuscule, “single-crystal nanowires subjected to mechanical energy,” as demonstrated by the researchers. The phenomenon is called giant magnetostriction. If a magnetic field is applied to the nickel, then the atoms in the material will change shape. Fohtung said that the characteristic is useful for harvesting and storing data, as well as biosensors. Nickel is a common material but its potential in these areas wasn’t tapped. 

Fohtung and his team were able to uncover Nickel’s unique property through lensless microscopy, a technique that involves a synchrotron to collate diffraction data. The data is loaded into computer algorithms, producing 3D images of electronic density and atomic displacement. By employing a big data technique, the said approach can produce better images than traditional microscopes. 

Fohtung added that the above-mentioned big data technique is capable of seeing microscopic objects and “discovering things we never thought existed about these materials and their uses.” Alternatively, Fohtung also employed the same technique to show that barium hexaferrite— an abundant material used in tapes, CDs, and computer components— “has spontaneous magnetic and electric polarization simultaneously.” 

When exposed to a magnetic field, they increase and decrease. The property is known as ferroelectricity, which is helpful in power-saving, data storage, and fast-writing. The findings were published in the journal portal Physical Review B. Fahtung expressed his excitement about the technique’s potential in the future. He continued, “There are so many existing materials that we are just not able to understand the potential applications.”