Sep 23, 2020

Nanostructures with a unique property

Posted by in categories: computing, nanotechnology, particle physics, quantum physics

Nanoscale vortices known as skyrmions can be created in many magnetic materials. For the first time, researchers at PSI have managed to create and identify antiferromagnetic skyrmions with a unique property: critical elements inside them are arranged in opposing directions. Scientists have succeeded in visualizing this phenomenon using neutron scattering. Their discovery is a major step towards developing potential new applications, such as more efficient computers. The results of the research are published today in the journal Nature.

Whether a material is magnetic depends on the spins of its atoms. The best way to think of spins is as minute bar magnets. In a where the atoms have fixed positions in a lattice, these spins can be arranged in criss-cross fashion or aligned all in parallel like the spears of a Roman legion, depending on the individual material and its state.

Under certain conditions it is possible to generate tiny vortices within the corps of spins. These are known as skyrmions. Scientists are particularly interested in skyrmions as a key component in future technologies, such as more efficient data storage and transfer. For example, they could be used as memory bits: a could represent the digital one, and its absence a digital zero. As skyrmions are significantly smaller than the bits used in conventional storage media, data density is much higher and potentially also more energy efficient, while read and write operations would be faster as well. Skyrmions could therefore be useful both in classical data processing and in cutting-edge quantum computing.

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