Magnets are a crucial part of collecting energy from heat. When one side of a magnet is heated, the other, cooler side will become more magnetic, which produces spin --flux of magnetism -- and creates electricity. Once paramagnets are heated up, though, nothing happens. That is until an international team of researchers and scientists found a way to capture heat and transform it into electricity using paramagnets, something that wasn’t thought to be possible. 

Heating Paramagnets

The international team of researchers comes from Ohio State University, North Carolina State University, and the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Their research focused on paramagnons — tiny bits of magnetic material that carry magnetic flux but aren’t magnetic themselves. These “spins” create a type of energy called magnon-drag thermoelectricity. When heated, magnets usually lose their magnetic forces, become paramagnetic, and cannot be used to collect energy. In this study, however, they found that once paramagnets are heated, they can capture heat and turn it into electricity. 

"The conventional wisdom was once that, if you have a paramagnet and you heat it up, nothing happens," said study co-author Joseph Heremans, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and Ohio Eminent Scholar in Nanotechnology at The Ohio State University, in a press release announcing the research findings. "And we found that that is not true.”

There are limitations, though, as paramagnons can only push electrons for a billionth of a millionth of a second. Researchers say that this is still enough to make paramagnets energy harvesters though. The research, published in the journal Science Advances, has the potential to create more efficient ways to generate heat for car exhausts, industrial machines, and even in space missions. 

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