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Thumb ticker a quick switch
Ein Datenpunkt ändert die Polarisierung: Der Probenausschnitt zeigt die Magnetisierung, während sie sich von oben nach unten umkehrt. © M. Kammerer / MPI für intelligente Systeme

A quick switch for magnetic needles

Magnetic vortex cores, which can be used as particularly stable storage points for data bits, can now be switched much faster

  • 12 April 2011

Microscopically tiny ferromagnetic platelets exhibit a phenomenon which could be exploited in the future for particularly stable magnetic data storage: so-called magnetic vortex cores. These are needle-shaped magnetic structures measuring 20 nanometres (millionths of a millimetre) in diameter. Five years ago, researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems (formerly the Max Planck Institute for Metals Research) in Stuttgart found a way to reverse the magnetic field needles despite their stability using only a tiny amount of energy so that their tips pointed in the opposite direction. Such a switching process is necessary to enable the vortex cores to be used in data processing. The Stuttgart scientists have now discovered a new mechanism which makes this switching process at least 20 times faster and confines it to a far smaller region than before. Magnetic vortex cores could thus provide a means of data storage which is stable, fast and greatly miniaturized.