With a constantly growing flood of information, we are being inundated with increasing quantities of data, which we in turn want to process faster than ever. Oddly, the physical limit to the recording speed of magnetic storage media has remained largely unresearched. In experiments performed on the particle accelerator BESSY II of Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin, Dutch researchers have now achieved ultrafast magnetic reversal and discovered a surprising phenomenon.
In magnetic memory, data is encoded by reversing the magnetization of tiny points. Such memory works using the so-called magnetic moments of atoms, which can be in either “parallel” or “antiparallel” alignment in the storage medium to represent to “0” and “1”.
The alignment is determined by a quantum mechanical effect called “exchange interaction”. This is the strongest and therefore the fastest “force” in magnetism. It takes less than a hundred femtoseconds to restore magnetic order if it has been disturbed. One femtosecond is a millionth of a billionth of a second. Ilie Radu and his colleagues have now studied the hitherto unknown behaviour of magnetic alignment before the exchange interaction kicks in. Together with researchers from Berlin and York, they have published their results in Nature (DOI: 10.1038/nature09901, 2011).
For their experiment, the researchers needed an ultra-short laser pulse to heat the material and thus induce magnetic reversal. They also needed an equally short X-ray pulse to observe how the magnetization changed. This unique combination of a femtosecond laser and circular polarized, femtosecond X-ray light is available in one place in the world: at the synchrotron radiation source BESSY II in Berlin, Germany.
In their experiment, the scientists studied an alloy of gadolinium, iron and cobalt (GdFeCo), in which the magnetic moments naturally align antiparallel. They fired a laser pulse lasting 60 femtoseconds at the GdFeCo and observed the reversal using the circular-polarized X-ray light, which also allowed them to distinguish the individual elements. What they observed came as a complete surprise: The Fe atoms already reversed their magnetization after 300 femtoseconds while the Gd atoms required five times as long to do so. That means the atoms were all briefly in parallel alignment, making the material strongly magnetized. “This is as strange as finding the north pole of a magnet reversing slower than the south pole,” says Ilie Radu.
With their observation, the researchers have not only proven that magnetic reversal can take place in femtosecond timeframes, they have also derived a concrete technical application from it: “Translated to magnetic data storage, this would signify a read/write rate in the terahertz range. That would be around 1000 times faster than present-day commercial computers,” says Radu.
Dr. Ilie Radu | EurekAlert!
Structured light and nanomaterials open new ways to tailor light at the nanoscale
23.04.2018 | Academy of Finland
On the shape of the 'petal' for the dissipation curve
23.04.2018 | Lobachevsky University
At the Hannover Messe 2018, the Bundesanstalt für Materialforschung und-prüfung (BAM) will show how, in the future, astronauts could produce their own tools or spare parts in zero gravity using 3D printing. This will reduce, weight and transport costs for space missions. Visitors can experience the innovative additive manufacturing process live at the fair.
Powder-based additive manufacturing in zero gravity is the name of the project in which a component is produced by applying metallic powder layers and then...
Physicists at the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics, which is jointly run by Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität and the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, have developed a high-power laser system that generates ultrashort pulses of light covering a large share of the mid-infrared spectrum. The researchers envisage a wide range of applications for the technology – in the early diagnosis of cancer, for instance.
Molecules are the building blocks of life. Like all other organisms, we are made of them. They control our biorhythm, and they can also reflect our state of...
University of Connecticut researchers have created a biodegradable composite made of silk fibers that can be used to repair broken load-bearing bones without the complications sometimes presented by other materials.
Repairing major load-bearing bones such as those in the leg can be a long and uncomfortable process.
Study published in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces is the outcome of an international effort that included teams from Dresden and Berlin in Germany, and the US.
Scientists at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) together with colleagues from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) and the University of Virginia...
Novel highly efficient and brilliant gamma-ray source: Based on model calculations, physicists of the Max PIanck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg propose a novel method for an efficient high-brilliance gamma-ray source. A giant collimated gamma-ray pulse is generated from the interaction of a dense ultra-relativistic electron beam with a thin solid conductor. Energetic gamma-rays are copiously produced as the electron beam splits into filaments while propagating across the conductor. The resulting gamma-ray energy and flux enable novel experiments in nuclear and fundamental physics.
The typical wavelength of light interacting with an object of the microcosm scales with the size of this object. For atoms, this ranges from visible light to...
13.04.2018 | Event News
12.04.2018 | Event News
09.04.2018 | Event News
24.04.2018 | Information Technology
24.04.2018 | Earth Sciences
24.04.2018 | Life Sciences