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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.

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.


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Hermann Stoll
Senior Research Scientist