- In the March 23 issue of the journal Nature Materials, they describe how a magnetic field roughly the size of a medical MRI reduced the amount of heat flowing through a semiconductor by 12 percent. The study is the first ever to prove that acoustic phonons—the elemental particles that transmit both heat and sound—have magnetic properties.
- The name “phonon” sounds a lot like “photon.” That’s because researchers consider them to be cousins: Photons are particles of light, and phonons are particles of heat and sound. Phonons haven’t received as much attention, and so not as much is known about them beyond their properties of heat and sound. This study shows that phonons have magnetic properties, too.
- The implication: In materials such as glass, stone, plastic—materials that are not conventionally magnetic—heat can be controlled magnetically, if you have a powerful enough magnet. The effect would go unnoticed in metals, which transmit so much heat via electrons that any heat carried by phonons is negligible by comparison.
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