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Enhancing Magnetic Functionality with Scandium: Breaking Stereotypes in the Design of Rare Earth Materials

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posted on 11.04.2017, 00:00 authored by Yaroslav Mudryk, Durga Paudyal, Jing Liu, Vitalij K. Pecharsky
Replacement of strongly magnetic gadolinium with weakly magnetic scandium unexpectedly enhances ferromagnetic interactions in (Gd1–xScx)5Ge4. Based upon this counterintuitive experimental finding we demonstrate the unique role 3d1 electrons of scandium atoms play in mediating magnetic interactions between the gadolinium atoms from the neighboring layers in the Sm5Ge4-type crystal lattice. Scandium substitutions at and below 20% rapidly increase the Curie temperature, TC, of the Gd5Ge4 parent, eliminate both the kinetic arrest and hysteresis, and drastically improve reversibility of the first-order magnetostructural transformation at TC. In agreement with first-principles predictions, higher than 20% Sc leads to the formation of a closely related Pu5Rh4-type structure where the first-order magnetostructural transformation is replaced by a conventional second-order ferromagnetic ordering that remains accompanied by a continuous rearrangement of the crystal lattice. Comparison of two materials with similar structures and compositions shows that significantly stronger magnetocaloric effect occurs in the first-order material, which also shows very small hysteresis. Furthermore, we demonstrate that a behavior of a specific interatomic distance can predict anomalous physical properties in a series of alloys where compositional dependence of lattice parameters suggests a rather trivial solid solubility and uninteresting magnetism.