Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Simple detection of magnetic skyrmions


New physical effect: researchers discover a change of electrical resistance in magnetic whirls

At present, tiny magnetic whirls – so called skyrmions – are discussed as promising candidates for bits in future robust and compact data storage devices. At the University of Hamburg these exotic magnetic structures were recently found to exist in ultrathin magnetic layers and multilayers, similar to the ones used in current hard-disk drives and magnetic sensors.

Figure: Magnetic whirls with a diameter of only a few nanometers occur in a thin film of palladium and iron (bottom, cones represent single atoms of the surface and they point into the direction of the atomic magnets). The resistance, measured with a metallic probe close to the surface changes inside the skyrmion as compared to its surrounding (top, experimental data across a skyrmion, see original publication). The change in resistance is continuous and becomes strongest, when the canting between neighboring atomic magnets is largest, in this case in the skyrmion center.

(Image: C. Hanneken, University of Hamburg)

However, up to now an additional magnet was necessary for a read-out of skyrmions. Now researchers from the University of Hamburg and the Christian-Albrechts-Universität in Kiel have demonstrated that skyrmions can be detected much more easily because of a drastic change of the electrical resistance in these magnetic whirls. For future data storage concepts this promises a significant simplification in terms of fabrication and operation.

Stable whirls in magnetic materials (see figure) were predicted over 25 years ago, but the experimental realization was achieved only recently. The discovery of such skyrmions in thin magnetic films and multilayers, already used in today’s technology, and the possibility to move these skyrmions at very low electrical current densities, has opened the perspective to use them as bits in novel data storage devices.

Up to now individual magnetic whirls were detected either by electron microscopy or by the resistance change in a tunnel contact with a magnetic probe. Employing a scanning tunneling microscope researchers of the University of Hamburg were now able to demonstrate that the resistance changes also when a non-magnetic metal is used in such a measurement.

‘In our experiment we can move a metallic tip over a surface with atomic-scale precision, and in this way we can measure the resistance at different positions in a skyrmion’ says Christian Hanneken, a PhD student in the group of Prof. Roland Wiesendanger. This enables the proof for the locally varying resistance within the magnetic whirl. ‘We found a resistance change of up to 100%, allowing a simple detection scheme for skyrmions’, as Dr. Kirsten von Bergmann explains.

In collaboration with theoretical physicists from the University of Kiel the researchers were able to identify the origin of the resistance change in the magnetic whirl: it is due to the canting between the atomic magnets from one atom to the next (see figure). The larger the angle between the adjacent atomic magnets, the stronger is the change in electrical resistance.

‘Electrons have a spin, and thus they interact with magnetic structures’, says Prof. Stefan Heinze from the University of Kiel. When the electrons are travelling through a magnetic whirl, they feel the canting between the atomic magnets, leading to a local resistance change of the material. ‘We were able to understand this effect by performing extensive numerical computer simulations of the electronic properties and developed a simple model for this effect’, as the PhD student Fabian Otte explains.

In future applications this newly discovered effect could be exploited to read out skyrmionic bits in a simple fashion. The possibility to use arbitrary metallic electrodes significantly simplifies the fabrication and operation of such novel storage devices.

Original publication:
Electrical detection of magnetic skyrmions by tunnelling non-collinear magnetoresistance,
Christian Hanneken, Fabian Otte, André Kubetzka, Bertrand Dupé, Niklas Romming, Kirsten von Bergmann, Roland Wiesendanger and Stefan Heinze, Nature Nanotechnology, Online publication: 05.10.2015,
DOI: 10.1038/nnano.2015.218.

Additional information:
Dr. Kirsten von Bergmann
Universität Hamburg
Jungiusstr. 9A/11A
D-20355 Hamburg
Phone: +49- 40 - 4 28 38 - 62 95

Weitere Informationen:

Heiko Fuchs | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft

More articles from Information Technology:

nachricht Next Generation Cryptography
20.03.2018 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Sichere Informationstechnologie SIT

nachricht TIB’s Visual Analytics Research Group to develop methods for person detection and visualisation
19.03.2018 | Technische Informationsbibliothek (TIB)

All articles from Information Technology >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Space observation with radar to secure Germany's space infrastructure

Satellites in near-Earth orbit are at risk due to the steady increase in space debris. But their mission in the areas of telecommunications, navigation or weather forecasts is essential for society. Fraunhofer FHR therefore develops radar-based systems which allow the detection, tracking and cataloging of even the smallest particles of debris. Satellite operators who have access to our data are in a better position to plan evasive maneuvers and prevent destructive collisions. From April, 25-29 2018, Fraunhofer FHR and its partners will exhibit the complementary radar systems TIRA and GESTRA as well as the latest radar techniques for space observation across three stands at the ILA Berlin.

The "traffic situation" in space is very tense: the Earth is currently being orbited not only by countless satellites but also by a large volume of space...

Im Focus: Researchers Discover New Anti-Cancer Protein

An international team of researchers has discovered a new anti-cancer protein. The protein, called LHPP, prevents the uncontrolled proliferation of cancer cells in the liver. The researchers led by Prof. Michael N. Hall from the Biozentrum, University of Basel, report in “Nature” that LHPP can also serve as a biomarker for the diagnosis and prognosis of liver cancer.

The incidence of liver cancer, also known as hepatocellular carcinoma, is steadily increasing. In the last twenty years, the number of cases has almost doubled...

Im Focus: Researchers at Fraunhofer monitor re-entry of Chinese space station Tiangong-1

In just a few weeks from now, the Chinese space station Tiangong-1 will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere where it will to a large extent burn up. It is possible that some debris will reach the Earth's surface. Tiangong-1 is orbiting the Earth uncontrolled at a speed of approx. 29,000 km/h.Currently the prognosis relating to the time of impact currently lies within a window of several days. The scientists at Fraunhofer FHR have already been monitoring Tiangong-1 for a number of weeks with their TIRA system, one of the most powerful space observation radars in the world, with a view to supporting the German Space Situational Awareness Center and the ESA with their re-entry forecasts.

Following the loss of radio contact with Tiangong-1 in 2016 and due to the low orbital height, it is now inevitable that the Chinese space station will...

Im Focus: Alliance „OLED Licht Forum“ – Key partner for OLED lighting solutions

Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, provider of research and development services for OLED lighting solutions, announces the founding of the “OLED Licht Forum” and presents latest OLED design and lighting solutions during light+building, from March 18th – 23rd, 2018 in Frankfurt a.M./Germany, at booth no. F91 in Hall 4.0.

They are united in their passion for OLED (organic light emitting diodes) lighting with all of its unique facets and application possibilities. Thus experts in...

Im Focus: Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

Oceans formed before Tharsis and evolved together, shaping climate history of Mars

A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

New solar solutions for sustainable buildings and cities

23.03.2018 | Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

For graphite pellets, just add elbow grease

23.03.2018 | Materials Sciences

Unique communication strategy discovered in stem cell pathway controlling plant growth

23.03.2018 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

Sharpening the X-ray view of the nanocosm

23.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>