fivemack: (Default)
I recently bought some samples of rare-earth elements from - gadolinium, terbium and dysprosium - to play with their magnetic properties. They're supplied as coins inside plastic discs, since they're reasonably reactive.

The gadolinium behaves roughly as I was expecting it to; it's quite strongly attracted to a magnet when cold, and less so when hot. I thought the Curie point was a sharp phase transition and the material would be non-magnetic above 19C, but the material sticks to a magnet even if I've freshly taken it out of hot water. I've been a bit wary since the Curie point of NdFeB magnets is only about 80C; I should get hold of a more-robust magnet. eBay has a very limited range of SmCo2 magnets (most hits for samarium-cobalt are guitar pickups); possibly I just want a large iron bar magnet, but I'm not quite sure where to buy those in the real world.

The terbium and dysprosium, however, are also attracted to the magnet (the Dy less so than the Tb) at room temperature. It's a fairly fearsome magnet, so I suppose that the Tb and Dy have some traces of Gd left in them and that's what's being picked up; in which case I should try boiling them and seeing how the magnetism goes away. I need to think more about how to measure the forces here; I can't think of a setup with magnet, element, spring-balance and bits of string where I can just read off the force, and a model where I pull on a spring balance until the element comes free of the magnet seems impossible to get good readings from.

I imagine a note to the element supplier saying that they are supplying inferior gadolinium-laced terbium would not be useful; separating adjacent rare earth elements is proverbially hard.

Any advice on better magnets, better terbium, or better experimental setup?
fivemack: (Default)

Pick your peculiar ester, and it not only displays a little rotating molecule of it, but tells you what it smells like, whether it's poisonous, its density in pounds per US gallon, its refractive index, and how prone it is to catch fire!

Since posting every entertaining link I find would make this livejournal dense and impenetrable, as well as making me out to be rather more prone to enthusiasm than a hyperactive ferret in a sequin factory, I'm mostly accumulating them at

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