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Many experiments, such as optical, superconductivity, etc, use the samples that involve rare earth metals and transition metals. Why are they used that often. Is the main reasons:

  1. They have the required electronic structure in its d- and f- orbital so that we can create the required spin-spin interaction.
  2. They provide the required structure of the crystal
  3. They provide the required energy band gap

Any elaboration?

Edit: Here the samples I mean is the usual YBCO, or some papers, say Gd5Si2Ge2, that I do not have any idea. I am also curious about why they decide to investigate a particular compound in the first place?

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

It's the open d- and f-shells that make for very interesting physics, because it can introduce effects that dramatically depend on doping. Look up "Strongly Correlated Materials" for an overview.

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Is the same reason true for non-supercondutor? – hwlau Dec 11 '10 at 3:57
Yes. There are other interesting material properties that are strongly influenced by the open d- and f-shells. You can have materials with very exotic phases and phase transitions. – Lagerbaer Dec 11 '10 at 18:12

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