Scientists at St Petersburg University have described the magnetic properties and structure of iron wires smaller than a human hair (nanowires). The properties of these materials can be used in cancer treatment as well as to create new compact information carriers. This information is shared with the Russian News Agency TASS by Alexander Mistonov, Associate Professor in the Department of Nuclear Physics Research Methods at St Petersburg University.

‘We study simple magnetic materials like nickel or cobalt. Our team works with iron or, more specifically, iron nanowires several tens of nanometres thick. When exposed to magnetic field, such wires acquire properties that a normal piece of metal is lacking,’ said Mr Mistonov.

An exact description of such properties opens new possibilities for the medical and IT sphere in developing equipment based on new principles.

Alexander Mistonov, Associate Professor in the Department of Nuclear Physics Research Methods at St Petersburg University

He clarified that today there are a large number of publications dedicated to the operational principle of metal nanowires. However, understanding of the relationship between the nanowire geometric parameters (for example, their length and thickness) and their magnetic properties is still ambiguous. In other words, it is unclear how to set the parameters in order to receive the desired magnetic properties. St Petersburg University scientists have engaged in studying iron nanowires; because of the high oxidation capacity of this metal it has not been examined extensively.

‘Our colleagues from Moscow were able to produce unique iron nanowires that are nearly not oxidised, so we can use them in the project. We have described how technology affects the material parameters, what magnetic properties the material shows, and how these properties are interconnected,’ noted Mr Mistonov. According to the scientist, useful properties of iron nanowires can be used in various fields. For example, the wires can be inserted into the human body and destroy the substance around them when exposed to a magnetic field. In this way ‘tumours could be destroyed’. ‘They could also be used to create new types of compact information storage devices with large storage capacity,’ mentioned the scientist. The project is supported by the Russian Science Foundation.