In close collaboration with colleagues from Bochum and the Netherlands, researchers from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) have developed a novel, extremely-thin structure made of various magnetic materials.
A pictorial view of the coupling mechanism between hard and soft ferrimagnetic alloys with perpendicular magnetization. Picture: RUB/Abrudan
What the scientists saw next was truly astounding; the system behaved fundamentally differently as compared to the conventional systems made of ferromagnetic and anti-ferromagnetic layers. The ferrimagnet described as magnetically “soft”, which consists of the chemical elements iron and gadolinium, unexpectedly indicated an alteration in the hysteresis, while the existing magnetism remained unaltered for the “hard” ferrimagnetic film that consists of the chemical elements dysprosium and cobalt.
This discovery paves the way for an even more vigorous research in the field of spintronics. “Know how, Show how!”, thus proclaims the research maxim of Radu. “I would not be surprised to see this discovery implemented into PC’s, smart phones and tablets in the future”, he predicts. For his invention the so-called spin-valve the HZB filed a patent application this week.
Nowadays, the data storage units are either volatile or non-volatile. For the former, the information is lost as soon as the device is switched off, and for the latter the information remain intact for many years. Due to thermal effects, they are also practically unusable after about ten years. In particular, when the bits are only a few nanometres in size, they lose stability. Once lost, the magnetization direction of the hard magnetic layer cannot easily be set again in the original direction. This leads to irretrievably loss of data.
This stability issue can now be addressed with the new spin-valve concept. By tunning the magnetic properties of the hard ferrimagnetic layer, the so-called RAM memory building-blocks (RAM stands for random access memory) can be manufactured with controlled life-time of the stored information of weeks, months or years. Thereafter, the magnetic orientation can be reset in the original state, which increases considerably the overall life expectancy of the information as compared to the existing non-volatile MRAM (Magnetoresistive Random Access Memory). These memory building-blocks are now certainly highly sought-after in the field of micro-electronics, but have not been able, to date, to be established in the markets due to high costs and technical problems.
Dr. Florin Radu | EurekAlert!
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