Toward the Next Magnetic Materials

Henry La Pierre to push frontiers with Beckman Young Investigator Award

School of Chemistry and Biochemistry Assistant Professor Henry La Pierre has received a Beckman Young Investigator Award. He will use the award, from the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation,  to pursue research that would establish the foundation for innovations in magnetic materials based on f-block elements.

The f-block elements are the lanthanides and actinides. They are characterized by partially filled f-orbitals. The property imparts unique magnetic properties, making the naturally occurring members commercially important.

According to La Pierre, f-block elements are in materials for energy production, conversion, and use. They are also driving advances in lighting, hard magnets, and electronics.

Because of strong demand, geopolitical factors, and limited availability, the U.S. Department of Energy has deemed five lanthanide elements to be in critical supply: praseodymium (Pr), neodymium (Nd), europium (Eu), terbium (Tb), and dysprosium (Dy).

La Pierre will use X-ray absorption spectroscopy to determine the fundamental basis of the magnetic exchange properties of f-block materials. “A primary goal of my group is to establish chemistry-based rules that will provide a new basis for innovation in controlling magnetic properties of f-block element materials,” La Pierre says.

The new understanding, he adds, “will be applied to the synthesis and characterization of materials that potentially can be exploited for a variety of applications, including high-temperature superconductivity and quantum information technologies.”    

La Pierre received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Harvard University and a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley. After postdoctoral appointments in Friederich Alexander University, in Erlangen, Germany, and Los Alamos National Laboratory, he joined Georgia Tech in 2016.

La Pierre’s research program develops the molecular and solid-state coordination chemistry of the f-block elements for unique and scalable solutions to contemporary problems in energy use. He uses a broad range of physical methods – including single-crystal and powder X-ray diffraction, magnetometry, multinuclear magnetic resonance spectrometry, and X-ray absorption spectroscopy – to characterize new materials.

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A. Maureen Rouhi, Ph.D.
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College of Sciences