Recently, we have begun to produce both ferrite and ferromagnetic nanoparticles in our laboratory. Pure ferromagnetic materials have enhanced properties over ferrites but are not as stable. Both ferrites and the ferromagnetic nanoparticles can be produced through chemical decomposition in the presence of surfactant molecules. The particle size depends on the type and amount of surfactant molecules, the type of the carrier liquid. Sample size is also sensitive to the thermal treatment during the preparation. By choosing different preparation conditions, it is possible to tune the particle size between 1-10 nm as well as tune the chemical composition of the nanoparticles.
A recent potential application involves using antibody attached magnetic nanoparticles to localize on cancer tumors in the body. The feasibility of detecting the agglomerated nanoparticles magnetic moments using SQUID (Superconducting Quantum Interference Device) magnetometry has recently been shown. Optimizing the properties of nanoparticles for this application would make the technique more useful and improve feasibility for large-scale cancer screening. One direction we intend to take with this project is to develop and optimize nanoparticles for this application.
We are also seeking to produce novel materials using arrays of nanoparticles and multilayer systems of nanoparticles and metals. We expect that the nanoparticles in these large moment materials will couple through direct dipolar coupling and possibly through the RKKY interaction. As the properties of these new materials evolve we will investigate their usefulness in applications such as very high density magnetic storage and read heads.