New UK consortium to explore use of magnetic skyrmions in data storage

August 02, 2016

The use of nanoscale magnetic whirlpools, known as magnetic skyrmions, to create novel and efficient ways to store data will be explored in a new £7M research programme led by Durham University.

Skyrmions, which are a new quantum mechanical state of matter, could be used to make our day-to-day gadgets, such as mobile phones and laptops, much smaller and cheaper whilst using less energy and generating less heat.

It is hoped that better and more in-depth knowledge of skyrmions could address society's ever-increasing demands for processing and storing large amounts of data and improve current hard drive technology.

Scientists first predicted the existence of skyrmions in 1962 but they were only discovered experimentally in magnetic materials in 2009.

The UK team, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), now aims to make a step change in our understanding of skyrmions with the goal of producing a new type of demonstrator device in partnership with industry.

Skyrmions, tiny swirling patterns in magnetic fields, can be created, manipulated and controlled in certain magnetic materials. Inside a skyrmion, magnetic moments point in different directions in a self-organised vortex. Skyrmions are only very weakly coupled to the underlying atoms in the material, and to each other, and their small size means they can be tightly packed together. Together with the strong forces that lock magnetic fields into the skyrmion pattern, the result is that the magnetic information encoded by skyrmions is very robust.

Scientists can potentially move a skyrmion with 100,000 times less energy than is needed to move a ferromagnetic domain, the objects currently used in the memory of our computers and smartphones. Currently when we access information through the web, we remotely use hard disk drives that generate lots of heat and waste lots of energy. Skyrmionic technology could allow this to be done on smaller scale devices which would use much less energy.

Professor Peter Hatton from the Department of Physics at Durham University, who heads the research team, said: "Skyrmions hold so much promise for advancing our basic understanding of matter and, crucially, also for using them as highly efficient memory elements.

"Within the new consortium, we will bring together experts in materials synthesis and theoretical and experimental techniques so we can answer questions about the status of magnetic skyrmions and develop technological applications based on this new realm of science, known as topological physics.

"We will work very closely with industry partners and align our scientific programme with the engineering and commercial realities of modern-day information technologies."

The national research group includes experts from the universities of Durham, Warwick, Oxford, Cambridge and Southampton.

The first prediction of a new type of stable configuration came from British physicist Tony Skyrme and has since opened up a whole variety of different sized and shaped skyrmion objects with different properties to conventional matter. However, numerous questions remain unanswered which focus on how best to exploit the unique magnetic properties of these magnetic excitations in devices.

The three generic themes the team will look at are: The research team will use state-of-the-art facilities such as synchrotron, neutron and muon sources both within the UK and internationally. The research is funded from summer 2016 until 2022.
-end-
The research team is currently looking for five postdoctoral research associates to join the project. For more information about these opportunities, please visit http://www.skyrmions.ac.uk

Durham University

Related Magnetic Fields Articles from Brightsurf:

Physicists circumvent centuries-old theory to cancel magnetic fields
A team of scientists including two physicists at the University of Sussex has found a way to circumvent a 178-year old theory which means they can effectively cancel magnetic fields at a distance.

Magnetic fields on the moon are the remnant of an ancient core dynamo
An international simulation study by scientists from the US, Australia, and Germany, shows that alternative explanatory models such as asteroid impacts do not generate sufficiently large magnetic fields.

Modelling extreme magnetic fields and temperature variation on distant stars
New research is helping to explain one of the big questions that has perplexed astrophysicists for the past 30 years - what causes the changing brightness of distant stars called magnetars.

Could megatesla magnetic fields be realized on Earth?
A team of researchers led by Osaka University discovered a novel mechanism called a ''microtube implosion,'' demonstrating the generation of megatesla-order magnetic fields, which is three orders of magnitude higher than those ever experimentally achieved.

Superconductors are super resilient to magnetic fields
A Professor at the University of Tsukuba provides a new theoretical mechanism that explains the ability of superconductive materials to bounce back from being exposed to a magnetic field.

A tiny instrument to measure the faintest magnetic fields
Physicists at the University of Basel have developed a minuscule instrument able to detect extremely faint magnetic fields.

Graphene sensors find subtleties in magnetic fields
Cornell researchers used an ultrathin graphene ''sandwich'' to create a tiny magnetic field sensor that can operate over a greater temperature range than previous sensors, while also detecting miniscule changes in magnetic fields that might otherwise get lost within a larger magnetic background.

Twisting magnetic fields for extreme plasma compression
A new spin on the magnetic compression of plasmas could improve materials science, nuclear fusion research, X-ray generation and laboratory astrophysics, research led by the University of Michigan suggests.

How magnetic fields and 3D printers will create the pills of tomorrow
Doctors could soon be administering an entire course of treatment for life-threatening conditions with a 3D printed capsule controlled by magnetic fields thanks to advances made by University of Sussex researchers.

Researchers develop ultra-sensitive device for detecting magnetic fields
The new magnetic sensor is inexpensive to make, works on minimal power and is 20 times more sensitive than many traditional sensors.

Read More: Magnetic Fields News and Magnetic Fields Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.