A physical particle postulated 80 years ago, could provide a decisive step toward the realization of novel, highly efficient data storage devices. Scientists at the Technische Universitaet Muenchen (TUM), the Technische Universitaet Dresden and the University of Cologne found that with magnetic monopoles in magnetic vortices, called skyrmions, information can be written and erased.
Depiction of the merging of two magnetic vortices, so-called skyrmions, in the magnetic structure of a material. The point at the which the vortices merge displays the properties of an emergent magnetic monopole. When the monopole moves along the direction of the vortices a skyrmion is created or destroyed (Picture: Ch. Schütte/University of Cologne)
A grid of magnetic vortex structures
Iron filings strewn on a sheet of paper trace the field lines of a bar magnet below the paper, thereby showing the magnet's north and south poles. No matter how often it is split, the bar magnet always forms a north and a south pole. However, in the early 1930s physicist Paul A. M. Dirac postulated a particle that should, as the magnetic counterpart of the electron, possess only one of the two poles, and should carry just one magnetic elementary charge.Looking for a simple way to study the magnetic vortices, researchers associated with TUM physicist Prof. Christian Pfleiderer collaborated with Prof. Lukas Eng's group at the Technische Universitaet Dresden, which has a magnetic force microscope. When they scanned the surface of the materials with this microscope, they not only observed the vortices for the first time, but also found that neighboring skyrmions merge with one another.
Compact and long-lived data storageAn important future application of the magnetic eddies could be extremely compact and long-lived storage media. Whereas one needs around a million atoms to store one bit in a modern hard disk, the smallest known skyrmions in magnetic materials consist of only 15 atoms.
The work was funded by the European Research Council, the German Research Foundation, (DFG), and the Australian Research Council, as well as the TUM Graduate School and the Bonn-Cologne Graduate School.
Patrick Regan | EurekAlert!
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