Sometimes a sum is more than its parts, and when this happens scientists want to know why. One example of this is lanthanum aluminate and strontium titanate, which are not magnetic but become so when layered together. Now researchers at Ohio State University have offered up a theoretical explanation for this odd behavior.
Magnetism arises when enough spin states of electrons align, as the spin state determines the direction of the electrons' individual magnetic fields. On their own, lanthanum aluminate and strontium titanate are non-conducting and contain electrons with such chaotically aligned spin states that they cancel each other out. When layered together though, the electrons interact at the interface in such a way to conduct electricity, and the conducting electrons then trigger the formation of a spiral pattern that creates a magnetic field.
Currently the work is just theoretical, so experiments could disprove the theory. If the Ohio researchers are correct though, then this combination of conductivity and magnetism could lead to circuits capable of data processing and data storage. Such technology is still a long ways off, but it is an intriguing idea, to say the least.
Source: Ohio State University