The picture shows the 2 mile long linear accelerator as the background and the experiment and results superimposed as a schematic. The schematic shows the magnetic field surrounding the beam and the magnetic pattern (which is of micrometre size) written into a sample by the beam.
The speed of magnetic recording – a crucial factor in a computer’s power and multimedia capabilities – depends on how fast one can switch a magnet’s poles. An experiment at the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Laboratory (SSRL) found that the ultimate speed of magnetic switching is at least 1,000 times slower than previously expected. The result, which appears in the April 22 issue of the journal Nature, has implications for future hard disk computer drive technologies.
In the push toward ever-faster magnetic recording, experts expected to find a physical limit, a threshold speed beyond which materials would respond chaotically. “If you had asked me a year ago, ‘How fast does one have to create a pulse that does not switch magnetization?’ my answer would have been one femtosecond (one thousandth of a trillionth of a second),” said Jo Stöhr, Deputy Director of SSRL. “Chaotic behavior was not expected in this experiment, which ran in the picosecond (trillionth-of-a-second) range.”
The SSRL is a division of the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC), a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) research facility operated by Stanford University. The collaboration for the Nature paper was led by SSRL scientists Hans Christoph Siegmann and Professor Joachim Stöhr , and included researchers from Seagate Technology, the world’s largest manufacturer of hard disk computer drives.
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