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Researchers start search for iridium replacement in magnetic storage devices

A team of European and Japanese scientists led by the University of York has launched a €4.6million project funded by the European Commission (EC) and the Japanese Science and Technology Agency (JST) to develop new materials to replace iridium in magnetic storage devices.

All spin electronic devices, including hard disk drives and next-generation magnetic memories, use an iridium alloy, but iridium's scarcity and the increasing use of new technologies has seen the price of iridium rise sharply.

The research team, working as the Harfir project, intends to develop Heusler alloy films to provide a cost effective alternative to iridium. A Heusler alloy is a ferromagnetic metal alloy, even though its constituent materials may not be. A range of such alloys is known, all based on a structure featuring manganese ions, which carry most of the alloy's magnetic moment.

Project scientific coordinator Dr Atsufumi Hirohata, from the University of York's Department of Electronics, said: "It is widely recognised that spin electronic technologies will displace volatile semiconductor memory technology within the next decade. Therefore, the lack of availability of one crucial element from within the periodic table is a critical issue to be solved urgently."

The European scientists will be working closely with a Japanese research team led by Professor Koki Takanashi from Tohoku University. He said: "My colleagues at the High Energy Accelerator Research Organisation in Tsukuba and my staff here at Tohoku University are excited to be working with such prestigious universities in Europe on this challenging, but vital, research.

"Our research programme will impact this key material directly by providing an improved understanding of a wide ranging class of ternary alloys, and we will seek to find new materials and new compositions of Heusler Alloys to replace the need for iridium in spin electronic devices."

Graham Pitcher

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