Expanding the tunability and applicability of exchange-coupled/decoupled magnetic nanocomposites†
CoFe2O4/Co–Fe magnetic composites are usually prepared through partial reduction of CoFe2O4, which often yields monoxides (i.e., FeO, CoO) as secondary phases. Since these compounds are paramagnetic at ambient conditions, the presence of a small amount of monoxide is generally downplayed in the literature, and the possible effects on the magnetic properties are simply ignored. However, the present study shows that even a low concentration of monoxide results in decoupling of the soft and hard magnetic phases, which inevitably leads to a deterioration of the magnetic properties. Additionally, it is confirmed that a partial reduction of CoFe2O4 is a suitable method to produce CoFe2O4/Co–Fe nanocomposites, provided that the treatment is well controlled with respect to duration, temperature and flow of reductant. A monoxide-free nanocomposite was produced and its magnetic properties evaluated both at room and low temperature. Our model system exemplifies the potential of exchange-coupling (and decoupling) as a tool to tune the magnetic properties of a material within a relatively wide range of values, thus widening its spectrum of potential applications.