Scientists have developed a method of setting a lattice of magnetic vortices in motion using a very weak electronic current – that could offer significantly faster data writing and processing.
The experiment by scientists at the Technische Universitaet Muenchen (TUM) and the Universitaet zu Koeln signalled a vast improvement on previous attempts to observe coupling between electric current and magnetic structure through measurements at the research neutron source FRM II in Garching, with a current a million times weaker than in earlier studies.
According to a report published in Science magazine, researchers have been concentrating on how magnetic information can be directly written onto media through the use of electric current.
The problem with doing this has been that it would require extremely high currents, the side effects of which would be impossible to reign in even with nanostructures.
Just over a year ago Professor Christian Pfleiderer alongside his team at TUM had come across a new magnetic structure in a crystal of mangalese silicon – a lattice of magnetic vortices, writes Science Daily.
When Pfleiderer’s team sent electric current through the manganese silicon, using neutrons from FRM II they observed a twist in the magnetic vortex lattice which they were initially unable to explain. Of even more interest than this was the discovery of the magnetic lattice itself.
The scientists made further measurements at the MIRA instrument of the neutron source FRM II to find out why the lattice would twist when a current was applied. At first glance the calculations seemed to contradict earlier observations.
“The magnetic structure twists because the direction of the electric current is deflected extremely efficiently by quantum mechanical effects,” said Pfleiderer.
According to Pfleiderer, when an electron flies through a magnetic vortex the electron’s spin reacts to the vortex. It is in this way that the electric current exerts a force on the magnetic vortices which will eventually begin to flow.
After further measurements the team were able to establish that the lattice of magnetic vortices exhibited interesting properties with relevant to the study of nanotechnology, particularly with regards to data storage systems.
The magnetic vortices are considered to be very stable, while still being very weakly anchored in the material. This means that even very weak electrical currents can lead to movement, which the researchers believe can lead to the writing and processing of data much faster and more efficiently than has been possible before.