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Enabling Faster Magnetic Data Processing with Ultrashort Electric Pulses

July 15, 2020 by Luke James

Physicists at Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, together with colleagues in China, claim to have developed a simple concept that could dramatically improve magnetic data processing.

Spintronic devices are made up of magnetic layers that act as spin polarizers or analyzers separated by non-magnetic layers through which the spin-polarized electrons pass.

Today, spintronics is considered one of the most important areas of emerging research with great promise and potential to deliver logic and electronic memory devices with high speed and low power consumption.

However, researchers are currently facing many challenges in developing efficient spintronics devices, one of which is achieving the electrical control of magnetic vortex dynamics in a reproducible and ultrafast way.  

Now, physicists at Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU), together with colleagues from Lanzhou University in China, claim to have developed a concept that could significantly improve magnetic data processing


Ultrashort Electric Pulses

Magnetic data storage is a vital tool for securely storing all the data that we now produce daily. Once saved, data can be left safely for several years without needing to be accessed. This makes it much better than, say, charge-based data storage, such as that used in mobile phones, because without an electrical charge, data storage can be short-lived.

Magnetic data storage is also much better than traditional magnetic hard drives, which are prone to mechanical failure, which may lead to irretrievable data losses. They are also much slower and consume a lot more power. 


Water vibrations representing the shape of magnetic waves.

Vibrations on the surface of water representing the shape of magnetic waves. 

A Viable Control Method

In their study, the researchers demonstrated a novel packaged-skyrmion-mediated vortex switching process driven by a simple sequence of picosecond electrical field pulses via magnetoelectric interactions. "We were after a fast and energy-efficient alternative," explains Professor Jamal Berakdar from the Institute of Physics at MLU. When using these ultrashort pulses in the terahertz range, the information could be written in magnetic nano-vortices and retrieved within picoseconds. 

In theory, billions of read and write operations could take place per second without the need for magnetic fields. "With the appropriately shaped pulses the data can be processed very quickly at a low energy cost," says Berakdar. The new concept is based on existing terahertz and magnetism technologies. "It exploits advances in electric pulse generation and nanomagnetism." 


The Manipulation of Electrical Pulses in Data Storage Technology

In recent years, there have been many advances in generating and controlling electrical pulses. Therefore, according to the researchers, it makes sense to find ways to apply these pulses to data storage. The method has been tested in computer simulations.

Their results demonstrate an energy-efficient, highly localized, and coherent control method for nonvolatile magnetic vortex-based information storage and handling.

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