In a recent paper published in Nanotechnology, a research team from Fujian Institute of Research on the Structure of Matter (FJIRSM), Chinese Academy of Sciences, has demonstrated a simple but practically useful technique for achieving room-temperature ferromagnetism using a concept of structural chemistry.

The group chose diamagnetic CeO2 as a model material to study because it belongs to a robust rare earth oxide insulator with many aspects of applications including catalysis, electrolysis and optical coatings. It has been found that a combination of defect chemistry with non-magnetic doping can reproducibly give rise to room-temperature ferromagnetism in nanoscale CeO2, which is highly useful for the design and fabrication of multifunctional devices.

This new magnetic functionality created in CeO2 for the current work is not an occasional case, but is the result of the team's preliminary research on the magnetic nature of many other nanoscale materials, such as NiO and Ag-Zn0.9Co0.1O hybrids. Team members Yiguo Su and Xiaoqing Qiu have already extended the concept to other materials for exciting functionalities like photoresponse and multicolour lights in a single solid. This technique may provide a general approach for creating new functionalities in materials for important applications in optoelectronics, spintronics and solid lightings, which will become the goals of the team within the next few years.