Richard completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Sussex, graduating with an MChem in 2015. He worked on the synthesis and characterisation of Uranium and transition metal complexes with bulky ligands, exploring their catalytic and magnetic properties.
He then took a year out of academia, briefly working as a chemical engineer, before returning a year later to the University of Kent. He now works with Dr. Paul Saines on a project titled "1D ferromagnetism in frustrated magnetocaloric frameworks" where he probes the unconventional magnetism in lanthanide frameworks, through neutron diffraction. He hopes to understand and identify materials that can be used for cryogenic refrigeration of superconducting magnets, in an effort to alleviate the need for liquid helium cooling.
Cooling to low temperatures is essential for scientific research as well as other applications like MRI scanners, quantum computing etc. The usual cryogen, liquid helium, requires constant supply to replace the amount lost through gas formation and is fast becoming scarce. An alternative to this is magnetic cooling using frustrated magnets containing lanthanide ions.
Neutrons and frustrated magnetism
The discovery of the neutron by James Chadwick in 1932, was significant for the progression of solid state science and worthy of the 1935 Nobel prize in physics. This led to the pioneering work by Shull in the 1950’s that laid the groundwork for magnetic diffraction studies of materials. Neutrons are a chargeless highly penetrating subatomic particle with a magnetic moment. This makes them the ideal probe for understanding magnetism on a microscopic scale. Despite almost 90 years of science nothing comes close to understanding magnetism like neutrons do.
At a basic level, magnetism comes in two flavours. Ferromagnetism (like a Neodynium magnet) - where spins are all pointing up, and antiferromagnetism where spins point in the opposite direction to it's nearest neighbour. But what happens when you have 3 antiferromagnetically correlated spins on a triangles? All 3 spins cannot be antiferromagnetic with respect to its nearest neighbour - this results in some fascinating physics.
Metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) have attracted much attention in recent years for the ability to highly modify the structure and properties, lending themselves to gas storage, chemical and magnetic sensors, magnetocalorics and multiferroics that combine magnetism with ferroelectric order. MOFs are extended networks of metal ions connected by organic linkers, with almost unlimited flexibility in structure and properties