Effect of maghemization on the magnetic properties of nonstoichiometric pseudo-single-domain magnetite particles

Trevor P. Almeida, Adrian R. Muxworthy, Takeshi Kasama, W. Williams, Christian Danvad Damsgaard, Cathrine Frandsen, T.J. Pennycook, R.E. Dunin-Borkowski

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The effect of maghemization on the magnetic properties of magnetite (Fe3O4) grains in the pseudo-single-domain (PSD) size range is investigated as a function of annealing temperature. X-ray diffraction and transmission electron microscopy confirm the precursor grains as Fe3O4 ranging from 150 to 250 nm in diameter, whilst Mössbauer spectrometry suggests the grains are initially near-stoichiometric. The Fe3O4 grains are heated to increasing reaction temperatures of 120–220°C to investigate their oxidation to maghemite (γ-Fe2O3). High-angle annular dark field imaging and localized electron-energy loss spectroscopy reveal slightly oxidized Fe3O4 grains, heated to 140°C, exhibit higher oxygen content at the surface. Off-axis electron holography allows for construction of magnetic induction maps of individual Fe3O4 and γ-Fe2O3 grains, revealing their PSD (vortex) nature, which is supported by magnetic hysteresis measurements, including first-order reversal curve analysis. The coercivity of the grains is shown to increase with reaction temperature up to 1808°C, but subsequently decreases after heating above 200°; this magnetic behavior is attributed to the growth of a γ-Fe2O3 shell with magnetic properties distinct from the Fe3O4 core. It is suggested there is exchange coupling between these separate components that results in a vortex state with reduced vorticity. Once fully oxidized to γ-Fe2O3, the domain states revert back to vortices with slightly reduced coercivity. It is argued that due to a core/shell coupling mechanism during maghemization, the directional magnetic information will still be correct; however, the intensity information will not be retained.
Original languageEnglish
JournalGeochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems
Issue number9
Pages (from-to)2969-2979
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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© 2015. The Authors. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License.

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