Mon, Oct 24, 2016 | updated 07:35 PM IST

Self-flipping magnets could improve digital information storage

Updated: Jul 22, 2016 13:14 IST

Washington D.C, Jul 22 (ANI): A team of researchers has made magnets flip like cats at room temperature, which could prove valuable as a new material for digital information processing and storage.

Similar to the ability of a cat to flip itself in the air by twisting different parts of its body in different directions and land on its feet, these magnets can flip themselves through the internal motion of their own electrons.

"In these new magnetic materials, a current running through the magnet can turn around the direction of the magnetization depending on the direction of the current," explained Jairo Sinova of the Institute of Physics at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU).

Sinova added, "This novel phenomenon in physics, dubbed spin-orbit torques, links the spin-degree of freedom of magnets which gives rise to the magnetization to the charge degree of freedom that allows for current-charge motion inside the material."

This novel effect has been pioneered, among others, by recent predictions by the Sinova group in Mainz together with theoretical and experimental collaborators. It occurs in magnetic materials that have broken-inversion symmetry.

The researchers first observed spin-orbit torques in the artificial bulk diluted magnetic semiconductor GaMnAs. GaMnAs is the diluted counterpart of crystalline zincblende structures of Silicon and Gallium arsenide, which are the pillars of modern electronics. However, in GaMnAs, spin-orbit torques were demonstrated only at very low temperatures.

Thanks to the synergetic teamwork of theorists and experimentalists, the researchers were able to predict and demonstrate the effect of spin-orbit torques in NiMnSb crystal at room temperature. NiMnSb was chosen according to the systematic analysis of the symmetry the crystal point groups in conjunction with microscopic first principles calculations of the effect. All electrical ferromagnetic resonance measurements were then used to detect the room-temperature spin-orbit torques in NiMnSb microbars.

Being able to use single magnet manipulation at room temperature represents an important step towards improved magnetic random access memory architectures for technical applications that are all fully electrical, highly scalable, and require low power.

The study appears in the journal Nature Physics. (ANI)