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Phenomenon to improve data processing and storage

A phenomenon discovered by researchers from the University of Nottingham and the University of York allows them to 'manipulate' the structure of a magnetic domain wall – local regions of magnetic charge driven by magnetic fields. This discovery could enable a new class of highly efficient, non-volatile information processing and storage technology.

"Concepts for information storage and logical processing based on magnetic domain walls have great potential for implementation in future information and communications technologies," said Dr Andrew Rushforth from the University of Nottingham.

A magnetic domain wall forms in a magnetic wire and separates regions where the magnetisation points in opposite directions. Under certain conditions it consists of a region in which the magnetisation rotates around a central vortex core, which points into or out of the wire.

The sense of rotation of the magnetisation in the vortex wall – its chirality – can be clockwise or anticlockwise. The problem is finding a way to manipulate the vortex domain wall.

To solve this problem, the team used the strain induced by an electric field applied to a piezoelectric material – which deforms mechanically in response to an electric field – to manipulate the chirality of the domain wall.

The use of electric field induced strain to control magnetic devices is said to be much more energy efficient than using magnetic fields or electrical currents.

Ultimately, it is hoped that it will lead to energy efficient memory chips and processors for use in portable devices such as laptops, phones and tablets.

Peggy Lee

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