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There are two main thrusts towards new permanent-magnet materials: improving extrinsic properties by nanostructuring and intrinsic properties by atomic structuring. Theory-both numerical and analytical-plays an important role in this ambitious research. Our analysis of aligned hard-soft nanostructures shows that soft-in-hard geometries are better than hard-in-soft geometries and that embedded soft spheres are better than sandwiched soft layers. Concerning the choice of the hard phase, both a high magnetization and a high anisotropy are necessary. As an example of first-principle research, we consider interatomic Mn exchange in MnAl and find strongly ferromagnetic intralayer exchange, in spite of the small Mn-Mn distances.