Piezomagnetic Material Changes Magnetic Properties When Stretched

Piezoelectric materials, which generate an electric current when compressed or stretched, are familiar and widely used: think of lighters that spark when you press a switch, but also microphones, sensors, motors and all kinds of other devices. Now a group of physicists has found a material with a similar property, but for magnetism. This “piezomagnetic” material changes its magnetic properties when put under mechanical strain.

Magnetic experiment

Top: A piece of BaFe2As2 is stretched while magnetic measurements are taken (the copper wire coil is part of the NMR device). Lower diagram shows atoms in a plane, with black arrows showing how magnetic spins lie in plane and point in opposite directions. Grey arrows show how the magnetic spin of atoms shifts as the material is stretched.