Welcome to the Frandsen Group!

About the Group

We are an experimental condensed matter physics group focused on investigating the structure and magnetism of fascinating--and often technologically promising--materials, such as superconductors, strongly correlated electron systems, multiferroics, magnetocalorics, molten salts for nuclear reactors, and more. We use beams of neutrons, x-rays, and muons produced at large-scale accelerator facilities to probe the atomic and magnetic correlations in these materials, together with advanced computational modeling to gain quantitative insight into the spatial arrangement of atoms and spins in a given material. Specific techniques include atomic and magnetic pair distribution function (PDF) analysis of neutron/x-ray total scattering data and muon spin relaxation/rotation (μSR). Interested and motivated undergraduate and prospective graduate students are encouraged to reach out to learn more about our research and find opportunities to participate.

Research Projects

Thermoelectrics, Magnetocalorics, and Multiferroics--Oh My!

This project focuses on the connection between the local atomic and magnetic structure and the energy-relevant properties of magnetocaloric, thermoelectric, and multiferroic materials. Magnetocaloric materials exhibit large temperature changes with the application and removal of a magnetic field, offering promising applications in solid-state refrigeration and waste heat harvesting. Thermoelectric materials experience an electrical voltage when subjected to a temperature gradient or vice versa, also providing novel routes for energy-efficient cooling and waste heat harvesting. Multiferroic materials show cross-order coupling between electric polarization and magnetic order, potentially enabling unique functionalities for energy transformation, information science, and signal processing. We are using combined atomic and magnetic pair distribution function analysis, together with muon spin spectroscopy, to establish the local atomic and magnetic structure of representative compounds for these material classes and better understand the origin of their outstanding properties. In the process, we are developing new experimental and computational methods for magnetic pair distribution function analysis, which will be widely applicable to many other materials, as well. Funding: US Department of Energy, Early Career program.

Molten Salts For Improved Nuclear Reactors

Molten salt reactors (MSRs) are a promising nuclear reactor design concept in which molten ionic salts function as the coolant and/or fuel source in the reactor. MSRs have many potential advantages over standard designs in commercial use today, including greatly enhanced safety/security and the ability to produce critical medical radioisotopes in addition to vast amounts of carbon-free electricity. To make MSRs a reality, it is necessary to understand and predict the behavior of the salts in operating conditions. Gaining a detailed knowledge of the local structure of the molten salts on the atomic scale is an essential step in this direction, since the local interactions between constituent atoms determine the macroscopic properties. In this project, we use cutting-edge neutron and x-ray total scattering and computational modeling techniques to establish the structure of relevant molten salts. We work closely with collaborators in BYU Chemical Engineering. Funding: US Department of Energy, Nuclear Energy University Program (pending).

Superconductors, Geometrically Frustrated Magnets, Magnetic Nanoparticles, and More

We maintain broad interest and involvement in structural studies of numerous material systems where knowledge of the local atomic and magnetic structure can add value. We have ongoing projects on iron-based superconductors, geometrically frustrated triangular lattice antiferromagnets, magnetic nanoparticles, Mott insulator systems, high-entropy alloys and oxides, and more. We are always open to collaborations on interesting material systems.

Selected Publications

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BYU Authors: Benjamin A. Frandsen, published in Phys. Rev. B
We use neutron diffraction and muon spin relaxation to study the effect of in-plane uniaxial pressure on the antiferromagnetic (AF) orthorhombic phase in 
BaFe
2
As
2
 and its Co- and Ni-substituted members near optimal superconductivity. In the low-temperature AF ordered state, uniaxial pressure necessary to detwin the orthorhombic crystals also increases the magnetic ordered moment, reaching an 11% increase under 40 MPa for 
BaFe
1.9
Co
0.1
As
2
, and a 15% increase for 
BaFe
1.915
Ni
0.085
As
2
. We also observe an increase of the AF ordering temperature (
T
N
) of about 0.25 K/MPa in all compounds, consistent with density functional theory calculations that reveal better Fermi surface nesting for itinerant electrons under uniaxial pressure. The doping dependence of the magnetic ordered moment is captured by combining dynamical mean field theory with density functional theory, suggesting that the pressure-induced moment increase near optimal superconductivity is closely related to quantum fluctuations and the nearby electronic nematic phase.
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BYU Authors: Benjamin Frandsen, published in Scientific Reports
We report the discovery of a new fluoride-arsenide bulk diluted magnetic semiconductor (Ba,K)F(Zn,Mn)As with the tetragonal ZrCuSiAs-type structure which is identical to that of the “1111” iron-based superconductors. The joint hole doping via (Ba,K) substitution & spin doping via (Zn,Mn) substitution results in ferromagnetic order with Curie temperature up to 30 K and demonstrates that the ferromagnetic interactions between the localized spins are mediated by the carriers. Muon spin relaxation measurements confirm the intrinsic nature of the long range magnetic order in the entire volume in the ferromagnetic phase. This is the first time that a diluted magnetic semiconductor with decoupled spin and charge doping is achieved in a fluoride compound. Comparing to the isostructure oxide counterpart of LaOZnSb, the fluoride DMS (Ba,K)F(Zn,Mn)As shows much improved semiconductive behavior that would be benefit for further application developments.
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BYU Authors: B. A. Frandsen, published in Phys. Rev. B
We present magnetometry and muon spin rotation 
(
μ
SR
)
 measurements of the superconducting dichalcogenide 
Ir
0.95
Pt
0.05
Te
2
. From both sets of measurements, we calculate the penetration depth and thence superfluid density as a function of temperature. The temperature dependence of the superfluid densities from both sets of data indicate fully gapped superconductivity that can be fit to a conventional 
s
-wave model and yield fitting parameters consistent with a BCS weak coupling superconductor. We therefore see no evidence for exotic superconductivity in 
Ir
0.95
Pt
0.05
Te
2
.
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BYU Authors: Benjamin A. Frandsen, published in Phys. Rev. B
We have studied the atomic and magnetic structure of the dilute ferromagnetic semiconductor system 
(
Ba
,
K
)
(
Zn
,
Mn
)
2
As
2
 through atomic and magnetic pair distribution function analysis of temperature-dependent x-ray and neutron total scattering data. We detected a change in curvature of the temperature-dependent unit cell volume of the average tetragonal crystallographic structure at a temperature coinciding with the onset of ferromagnetic order. We also observed the existence of a well-defined local orthorhombic structure on a short length scale of 

5
Å
, resulting in a rather asymmetrical local environment of the Mn and As ions. Finally, the magnetic PDF revealed ferromagnetic alignment of Mn spins along the crystallographic 
c
 axis, with robust nearest-neighbor ferromagnetic correlations that exist even above the ferromagnetic ordering temperature. We discuss these results in the context of other experiments and theoretical studies on this system.
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BYU Authors: Benjamin A. Frandsen, published in Nat. Commun.
RENiO3 (RE=rare-earth element) and V2O3 are archetypal Mott insulator systems. When tuned by chemical substitution (RENiO3) or pressure (V2O3), they exhibit a quantum phase transition (QPT) between an antiferromagnetic Mott insulating state and a paramagnetic metallic state. Because novel physics often appears near a Mott QPT, the details of this transition, such as whether it is first or second order, are important. Here, we demonstrate through muon spin relaxation/rotation (μSR) experiments that the QPT in RENiO3 and V2O3 is first order: the magnetically ordered volume fraction decreases to zero at the QPT, resulting in a broad region of intrinsic phase separation, while the ordered magnetic moment retains its full value until it is suddenly destroyed at the QPT. These findings bring to light a surprising universality of the pressure-driven Mott transition, revealing the importance of phase separation and calling for further investigation into the nature of quantum fluctuations underlying the transition.