Kind of magnetism that occurs in materials weakly attracted by a strong magnet. Compounds containing iron, palladium, platinum, and the rare-earth elements exhibit strong paramagnetism because they have atoms with some incomplete inner electron shells. Their unpaired electrons make the atoms behave like tiny permanent magnets that align with and strengthen an applied magnetic field. As the temperature rises, strong paramagnetism decreases because of the greater random motion of the atoms. Weak paramagnetism, found in many solid metallic elements, is independent of temperature.
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This law indicates that the susceptibility χ of paramagnetic materials is inversely proportional to their temperature. Curie's law is only valid under conditions of low magnetisation, since it does not consider the saturation of magnetisation that occurs when the atomic dipoles are all aligned in parallel. After everything is aligned, increasing the external field will not increase the total magnetisation since there can be no further alignment. However such saturation typically requires very strong magnetic fields.
It is not easy to identify which materials should be called 'paramagnets', because the term is often used for rather different systems. In principle any system that contains atoms, ions or molecules with unpaired spins can be called a paramagnet, but the interactions between them do need consideration.
Thus, condensed phase paramagnets are only possible if the interactions of the spins that lead either to quenching or to ordering are somehow kept at bay. There are two classes of materials for which this holds:
As stated above many materials that contain d- or f-elements do retain unquenched spins. Salts of such elements often show paramagnetic behavior but at low enough temperatures the magnetic moments may order. It is not uncommon to call such materials 'paramagnets', when referring to their paramagnetic behavior above their Curie or Néel-points, particularly if such temperatures are very low or have never been properly measured. Even for iron it is not uncommon to say that iron becomes a paramagnet above its relatively high Curie-point. In that case the Curie-point is seen as a phase transition between a ferromagnet and a 'paramagnet'. The word paramagnet now merely refers to the linear response of the system to an applied field, the temperature dependence of which requires an amended version of Curie's law, known as the Curie-Weiss law. . This amended law includes a term θ that describes the exchange interaction that is present albeit overcome by thermal motion. The sign of θ depends on whether ferro- or antiferromagnetic interactions dominate and it is seldom exactly zero, except in the dilute, isolated cases mentioned above.
Obviously, the paramagnetic Curie-Weiss description above TN or TC is a rather different interpretation of the word 'paramagnet' as it does not imply the absence of interactions, but rather that the magnetic structure is random in the absence of an external field at these sufficiently high temperatures. Even if θ is close to zero this does not mean that there are no interactions, just that the aligning ferro- and the anti-aligning antiferromagnetic ones cancel. An additional complication is that the interactions are often different in different directions of the crystalline lattice (anisotropy), leading to complicated magnetic structures once ordered.
Randomness of the structure also applies to the many metals that show a net paramagnetic response over a broad temperature range. They do not follow a Curie type law as function of temperature however, often they are more or less temperature independent. This type of behavior is of an itinerant nature and better called Pauli-paramagnetism, but it is not unusual to see e.g. the metal Aluminium called a 'paramagnet', even though interactions are strong enough to give this element very good electrical conductivity.
There are materials that show induced magnetic behavior that follows a Curie type law but with exceptionally large values for the Curie constants. These materials are known as superparamagnets. They are characterized by a strong ferro- or ferrimagnetic type of coupling into domains of a limited size that behave independently from one another. The bulk properties of such a system resembles that of a paramagnet, but on a microsopic level they are ordered. The materials do show an ordering temperature above which the behavior reverts to ordinary paramagnetism (with interaction). Ferrofluids are a good example, but the phenomenon can also occur inside solids, e.g. when dilute paramagnetic centers are introduced in a strong itinerant medium of ferromagnetic coupling such as when Fe is substituted in TlCu2Se2 or the alloy AuFe. Such systems contain ferromagnetically coupled clusters that freeze out at lower temperatures. They are also called mictomagnets