Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Chain instead of zigzag: RUB physicists let magnetic dipoles interact on the nanoscale

16.05.2013
Of great technical interest for future hard disk drives

Physicists at the Ruhr-Universität Bochum (RUB) have found out how tiny islands of magnetic material align themselves when sorted on a regular lattice - by measurements at BESSY II. Contrary to expectations, the north and south poles of the magnetic islands did not arrange themselves in a zigzag pattern, but in chains.

“The understanding of the driving interactions is of great technological interest for future hard disk drives, which are composed of small magnetic islands”, says Prof. Dr. Hartmut Zabel of the Chair of Experimental Physics / Solid State Physics at the RUB. Together with colleagues from the Helmholtz-Zentrum in Berlin, Bochum’s researchers report in the journal “Physical Review Letters”.

Complete chaos in the normal state

Many atoms behave like compass needles, that is, like little magnetic dipoles with a north and a south pole. If you put them close together in a crystal, all the dipoles should align themselves to each other, making the material magnetic. However, this is not the case. A magnetic material is only created when specific quantum mechanical forces are at work. Normally, the forces between the atomic dipoles are by far too weak to cause magnetic order. Moreover, even at low temperatures, the thermal energy causes so much movement of the dipoles that complete chaos is the result. “However, the fundamental question remains of how magnetic dipoles would align themselves if the force between them was big enough”, Prof. Zabel explains the research project.

Square lattice of magnetic islands

To investigate this, the researchers used lithographic methods to cut circular islands of a mere 150 nanometers in diameter from a thin magnetic layer. They arranged these in a regular square lattice. Each island contained about a million atomic dipoles. The forces between two islands were thus stronger by a factor of a million than that between two single atoms. If you leave these dipoles to their own resources, at low temperatures you can observe the arrangement that results exclusively from the interaction between the dipoles. They assume the most favourable pattern in terms of energy, the so-called ground state. The islands serve as a model for the behaviour of atomic dipoles.

Magnetic microscopy

The electron synchrotron BESSY II at the Helmholtz-Zentrum in Berlin is home to a special microscope, the photon emission electron microscope, with which the RUB physicists made the arrangement of the magnetic dipole islands visible. Using circularly polarised synchrotron light (X-ray photons), the photons stimulate specific electrons. These provide information on the orientation of the dipoles in the islands. The experiments were carried out at low temperatures so that the thermal movement could not interfere with the orientation of the dipoles.

Dipoles arrange themselves in chains

The magnetic dipoles formed chains, i.e. the north pole of one island pointed to the south pole of the next island. “This result was surprising”, says Zabel. In the lattice, each dipole island has four neighbours to which it could align itself. You cannot tell in advance in which direction the north pole will ultimately point. “In fact, you would expect a zigzag arrangement”, says the Bochum physicist. Based on the chain pattern observed in the experiment, the researchers showed that higher order interactions determine how the magnetisation was oriented. Not only dipolar, but also quadrupolar and octopolar interactions play a role. This means that a magnetic island exerts forces on four or eight neighbours at the same time.

Magnetic islands in the hard drives of the future

In future, hard disks will be made up of tiny magnetic islands (bit pattern). Each magnetic island will form a storage unit which can represent the bit states “0” and “1” - encoded through the orientation of the dipole. For a functioning computer, you need a configuration in which the dipole islands interact as little as possible and can thus assume the states “0” and “1”independently of each other. For the technical application, a precise understanding of the driving interactions between magnetic islands is therefore crucial.

Funding

The German Research Foundation (DFG) supported the work in Bochum within the Collaborative Research Centre (SFB) 491 „Magnetic hetero-structures: spin structures and spin transport“; BESSY II at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin is supported by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).

Bibliographic record

M. Ewerlin, D. Demirbas, F. Brüssing, O. Petracic, A.A. Ünal, S. Valencia, F. Kronast, H. Zabel (2013): Magnetic Dipole and Higher Pole Interaction on a Square Lattice, Physical Review Letters, DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.110.177209

Figures online

Two images related to this press release can be found online at:
http://aktuell.ruhr-uni-bochum.de/pm2013/pm00144.html.en

Further information

Prof. Dr. Hartmut Zabel, Chair of Experimental Physics / Solid State Physics at the Ruhr-Universität, 44780 Bochum, Germany, Tel. +49/234/32-23649, E-mail: hartmut.zabel@rub.de

Editor: Dr. Julia Weiler

Dr. Josef König | idw
Further information:
http://www.ruhr-uni-bochum.de

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Only an atom thick: Physicists succeed in measuring mechanical properties of 2D monolayer materials
17.01.2018 | Universität des Saarlandes

nachricht Black hole spin cranks-up radio volume
15.01.2018 | National Institutes of Natural Sciences

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Scientists decipher key principle behind reaction of metalloenzymes

So-called pre-distorted states accelerate photochemical reactions too

What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...

Im Focus: The first precise measurement of a single molecule's effective charge

For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.

Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...

Im Focus: Paradigm shift in Paris: Encouraging an holistic view of laser machining

At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.

No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...

Im Focus: Room-temperature multiferroic thin films and their properties

Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) and Tohoku University have developed high-quality GFO epitaxial films and systematically investigated their ferroelectric and ferromagnetic properties. They also demonstrated the room-temperature magnetocapacitance effects of these GFO thin films.

Multiferroic materials show magnetically driven ferroelectricity. They are attracting increasing attention because of their fascinating properties such as...

Im Focus: A thermometer for the oceans

Measurement of noble gases in Antarctic ice cores

The oceans are the largest global heat reservoir. As a result of man-made global warming, the temperature in the global climate system increases; around 90% of...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

10th International Symposium: “Advanced Battery Power – Kraftwerk Batterie” Münster, 10-11 April 2018

08.01.2018 | Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Gran Chaco: Biodiversity at High Risk

17.01.2018 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation

Only an atom thick: Physicists succeed in measuring mechanical properties of 2D monolayer materials

17.01.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Fraunhofer HHI receives AIS Technology Innovation Award 2018 for 3D Human Body Reconstruction

17.01.2018 | Awards Funding

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>