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J Nanosci Nanotechnol. 2012 Sep;12(9):7571-6.

Morin transition in hematite nanocrystals self-assembled into three-dimensional structures.

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  • 1Centro de Investigación en Ciencias Físico Matemáticas/Facultad de Ciencias Físico-Matemáticas, Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León, San Nicolás de los Garza, Nuevo León 66450, Mexico.


The Morin transition (i.e., the first-order weak ferromagnetic (WF)/antiferromagnetic (AF) transition) in tridimensional (3D) nanoarchitectures constituted by self-organized hematite nanocrystals with controlled crystal size has been investigated. These intricate structures were prepared by the thermally induced hydrolysis of iron (III) solutions in presence of urea. The variation of the aging time from 1 hour up to 7 days leads to the formation of hematite crystal aggregates with crystallite sizes ranging between 7 and 42 nm. As the crystallite size decreases, it is observed that a superparamagnetic contribution, ascribed to the spins of the crystal surface, gains importance. This emergent contribution progressively hides the abrupt change of the magnetization associated to the Morin transition which, in turn, occurs at decreasing temperatures. The Morin transition found in the bigger particles exhibits thermal hysteresis. This fact has been tentatively explained by considering that in absence of crystal defects, the nucleation of the AF --> WF transition occurs in areas near to the outer spin layers, whereas the nucleation of the WF --> AF occurs in the inner of the crystal. In the outer spin layers, the AFM order is frustrated and therefore this transition is suppressed. In fact, the uncompensated surface spins can be magnetically coupled with the core spins at low temperatures when the sample is field cooled, inducing exchange anisotropy in the system.

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