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Theoretical analysis of flux amplification by soft magnetic material in a putative biological magnetic-field receptor

Shcherbakov, V. P., and M. Winklhofer (2010), Theoretical analysis of flux amplification by soft magnetic material in a putative biological magnetic-field receptor, Phys Rev E, 81(March), ARTNR 031921, doi:10.1103/PhysRevE.81.031921, Free access.

Abstract
Birds are endowed with a magnetic sense that allows them to detect Earth’s magnetic field and to use it for orientation. Physiological and behavioral experiments have shown the upper beak to host a magnetoreceptor. Putative magnetoreceptive structures in the beak are nerve terminals that each contain a dozen or so of micrometer-sized clusters of superparamagnetic nanocrystals made of magnetite/maghemite and numerous electron-opaque platelets filled with a so far unidentified, amorphous ferric iron compound. The platelets typically form chainlike structures, which have been proposed to function as magnetic flux focusers for detecting the intensity of the geomagnetic field. Here, we test that proposition from first principles and develop an unconstrained model to determine the equilibrium distribution of magnetization along a linear chain of platelets which we assume to behave magnetically soft and to have no magnetic remanence. Our analysis, which is valid for arbitrary values of the intrinsic magnetic susceptibility ?, shows that ? needs to be much greater than unity to amplify the external field by two orders of magnitude in a chain of platelets. However, the high amplification is confined to the central region of the chain and subsides quadratically toward the ends of the chain. For large values of ?, the possibility opens up of realizing magnetoreceptor mechanisms on the basis of attraction forces between adjacent platelets in a linear chain. The force in the central region of the chain may amount to several pN, which would be sufficient to convert magnetic input energy into mechanical output energy. The striking feature of an ensemble of platelets is its ability to organize into tightly spaced chains under the action of an external field of given strength. We discuss how this property can be exploited for a magnetoreception mechanism.
Further information
BibTeX
@article{id1528,
  author = {V. P. Shcherbakov and M. Winklhofer},
  journal = {Phys Rev E},
  note = {Free access},
  number = {March},
  pages = {ARTNR 031921},
  title = {{Theoretical analysis of flux amplification by soft magnetic material in a putative biological magnetic-field receptor}},
  volume = {81},
  year = {2010},
  url = {http://link.aps.org/doi/10.1103/PhysRevE.81.031921},
  doi = {10.1103/PhysRevE.81.031921},
}
EndNote
%0 Journal Article
%A Shcherbakov, V. P. 
%A Winklhofer, M.
%D 2010
%N March
%V 81
%J Phys Rev E
%P ARTNR 031921
%Z Free access
%T Theoretical analysis of flux amplification by soft magnetic material in a putative biological magnetic-field receptor
%U http://link.aps.org/doi/10.1103/PhysRevE.81.031921
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Printed 25. Aug 2019 09:10