A polycrystalline material (NiGa2S4) recently synthesized by Japanese researchers is believed to exhibit a "liquid" magnetic state at extremely low temperatures. Such a state is created when magnetic spins fluctuate in a disorderly, fluid-like configuration that do not produce an overall magnetic force. The triangular arrangement of the nickel gallium sulfide's atoms appears to prevent alignment of these magnetic spins. First proposed 30 years ago, this bizarre state might be related to the way electrons flow without resistance in superconducting materials.
Researchers at Johns Hopkins, the University of Maryland, and NIST used X-rays and neutron probes to examine a sample of the new material. NIST's disk chopper spectrometer pulses neutrons of identical wavelength through a sample of interest; 900 detectors in a semicircle then determine where and when the neutrons emerge, helping to map electron spins.