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Iron nitride has become an important candidate for the production of strong permanent magnets. Its crystalline structure has a lot in common with rare-earth magnets; the unit cells of these materials are either body-centered cubic (BCC) or face-centered cubic (FCC). The axial asymmetry of the crystallographic structure allows for high magnetic anisotropy, making it possible to create ferromagnetic materials that have the same coercivity as rare-earth magnets.

But nitriding iron to a nitride has some drawbacks: It disrupts the crystalline framework, leading to a different morphology. Moreover, iron nitrides usually have low surface areas, which makes them difficult to be used as catalysts.

To solve these problems, researchers developed a new nitriding procedure for producing iron nitrides with high surface areas. In this process, an iron-containing precursor is pyrolyzed in a gas mixture of ammonia and nitrogen at elevated temperatures. The resulting nitride has a higher surface area than that of conventional iron nitrides, which is an essential requirement for the application of this material as a catalyst.

A swarm-intelligence algorithm predicts iron nitride phases and their stability at 0-300 GPa, using unbiased particle swarm optimization. This technique was successfully applied to stoichiometric Fe-N compounds, and it has proven effective in predicting new structural compositions under high pressures that have never been observed before.

Interestingly, the nitriding of MIL-53(Fe) to a nitride resulted in a unique coralloid morphology; this is likely because the nitriding temperature caused disruption of the MIL-53(Fe) framework. Nevertheless, the a-Fe2O3 precursors produced polycrystalline mixtures of and -Fe4N, as shown in Figure 3.

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