Analysis on variety and characteristics of maghemite

Xiu Ming Liu, John Shaw, Jian Zhong Jiang, Jan Bloemendal, Paul Hesse, Tim Rolph, Xue Gang Mao

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44 Citations (Scopus)


Maghemite (γ-Fe2O3) is a very common mineral at the earth's surface and also an important material for making music and video tapes. Maghemite is usually synthesized from magnetite under oxidizing conditions after a few hours or a few days below a temperature of 300°C. The magnetic property of thermal instability and the chemical action after heating is an important character for maghemite. That is, it will become hematite in certain proportion after being heated above 250°C. Maghemite is therefore actually unable to have its Curie temperature measured. But late using synthetic sample, maghemite was further found partially thermal stable with a measurable Curie temperature ~645°C. During our thermally magnetic experiments for a set of synthetic magnetite, we found that extra fined grain size (pseudo single domain (PSD) and small multi-domain (MD), mainly 1-10 μm) magnetite was formed to a completely thermally stable maghemite. This maghemite can also be produced by heating the same powder up to 700°C in an oven and keeping this temperature for 10 min, then cooling it down. When the generated maghemite by these two ways is heated from room temperature to 700°C, it shows almost fully reversible, or thermally stable. We used X-ray powder diffraction and Mössbauer spectroscopy to confirm the identity of this maghemite and compared its magnetic hysteresis, high temperature magnetization, low temperature thermal demagnetization, and low temperature susceptibility with those of the original preheated magnetite. Such quickly oxidized maghemite by heating to high temperature implies some types of maghemite formed in certain natural condition can carry a thermal remnant magnetization (TRM). Four types of maghemite were characterized and discussed according to their thermal stability. Among them, partially stable and fully thermally stable maghemite after heating should possess capability of carrying TRM. There is possibly a compensation of synthetizing maghemite between heating temperature and heating duration. The thermal stability of maghemite may be affected by a few factors, such as its purity (stoichiometry), heating temperature and duration. The grain size may be one of important factors. Maghemite might be similar to magnetite, having various magnetic properties corresponding to its grain size categories such as superparamagnetic (SP), single domain (SD) and MD. Low temperature measurement for PSD fine grain of synthetic magnetite shows a phenomenon of Verwey transition "suppressed", its fundamental causes could be that the core diameter of oxidized magnetite is actually reach or approach SD size, so that its Verwey transition is shown "suppressed".

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1153-1162
Number of pages10
JournalScience China Earth Sciences
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2010


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