Laura Heyderman elected Royal Society Fellow

Today, the announcement was made that Laura Heyderman, who leads the Mesoscopic Systems Group at PSI, has been elected Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS). Laura’s nomination recognises almost 30 years of research into magnetic materials and magnetism on the nanoscale, most notably, in the field of artificial spin ice.

Laura Heyderman is best known for her breakthroughs with nanomagnets – minute bar magnets that are a few hundreds of times smaller than the width of a human hair. Her research group, shared between Paul Scherrer Institute PSI and ETH Zurich where she became full professor in 2013, use these to create elaborate structures and devices. With the help of the large research infrastructures at PSI (X-rays, muons and neutrons) they then investigate the novel phenomena that they exhibit. The tiny magnetic systems they create can have a range of technological applications, such as for computation, communication, sensors or actuators.

Read more on the PSI website

Image: Laura Heyderman began working on magnetism as a PhD student investigating magnetic thin films in Paris in 1988. Today, she leads the Mesoscopic Systems Group, shared between PSI and ETH where she is a full professor.

Credit: ETH Zurich / Giulia Marthaler

Imaging Earth’s crust reveals natural secret for reducing carbon emissions

Using the Canadian Light Source (CLS) at the University of Saskatchewan and its BMIT-ID beamline, he discovered much larger pores in samples from the Earth’s crust than predicted.

“I expected nanometer-sized pores, whereas I ended up finding pores up to 200 microns — so several orders of magnitudes larger,” said Pujatti, a scientist in the University of Calgary’s Department of Geoscience who recently defended his PhD. “This was very, very puzzling to me.”

Three-dimensional CLS imaging techniques allowed him to see the rocks’ internal structure. There, he found the pores in a mineral called olivine, which is made up largely of silica and magnesium.

As in other geologic systems, he thought the olivine would form new minerals — basically clays — as it dissolved “but I didn’t see that,” he said. “I could only see pores.”

“Finally, I realized the types of fluids that percolated through these rocks were too cold to lead to the formation of new minerals.” The ‘culprit’ was simply sea water.

“Classically, we always consider the oceanic crust as a sink for magnesium,” he said. “Instead, interactions between fluids and these olivine-rich rocks release magnesium.”

Read more on the Canadian Light Source website

Image: Simone Pujatti (right) and Benjamin Tutolo.