A highly sensitive magnetic material that could transform computer hard drives and energy storage devices has been discovered. The metal bilayer needs only a small shift in temperature to dramatically alter its magnetism - a tremendously useful property in electronic engineering.
"No other material known to man can do this. It's a huge effect. And we can engineer it," said Ivan Schuller, of the University of California, San Diego.
He presented his findings at the American Physical Society meeting in Denver.
The material combines thin layers of nickel and vanadium oxide, creating a structure that is surprisingly responsive to heat.
"We can control the magnetism in just a narrow range of temperature - without applying a magnetic field. And in principle we could also control it with voltage or current," said Prof Schuller.
"At low temperatures, the oxide is an insulator. At high temperatures it's a metal. And in between it becomes this strange material," he said.