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Programmable Ultralight Magnets via Orientational Arrangement of Ferromagnetic Nanoparticles within Aerogel Hosts

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posted on 04.12.2019, 15:47 by Yuanyuan Li, Qingkun Liu, Andrew J. Hess, Shu Mi, Xiaoduo Liu, Ziyu Chen, Yong Xie, Ivan I. Smalyukh
The actuation and levitation of air-suspended objects by a magnetic field, due to its noncontact and holonomic manipulation modes, are important technological capabilities for device applications. However, owing to a higher density of conventional ferromagnets or nanoparticle-containing polymers and strong magnetic fields required for actuation, fabricating lightweight materials with a sensitive magnetic response for weight critical applications is challenging. Here, we report ultralight aerogel-based magnets (aero-magnets) comprising assembled ferromagnetic nanomaterials with highly magnetic anisotropy where the magnetic domains can be programmed by external predesigned fields. To demonstrate the breadth of manufacturing methods for this breed of aero-magnet composites, both silica/nanocellulose aerogel hosts and ferromagnetic nanorod/nanoplatelet guests have been explored. Single and double domains with out-of-plane magnetization are programmed into the aero-magnets and characterized by magnetic force microscopy. The levitation and actuation of the aero-magnets are realized while exposed to a small external magnetic field of 11 mT and introduced to a switching circuit. Furthermore, the elastic moduli of the aero-magnets are estimated by dynamic magnetic responses of the ferromagnetic nanoparticles tightly tethered in the aerogel hosts under rapid cyclic fields. These programmable aero-magnets could serve as monolithic magnetic actuator units in the fields of tiny robots and aerospace components.