Documenting the Coming Singularity

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Magnetic Nano-Vortices: The Future of Data Storage?

If a group of scientists at Kyoto University is correct, magnetic vortices may be the future of data storage.
In an important step toward future data-storage technologies based on magnetism, a research group has determined how to control the magnetization of a “magnetic vortex,” a curling nanometer-sized magnetic structure present within tiny, millionth-of-a-meter-sized magnetic disks. Understanding the behavior of this type of structure is one of the main requirements of magnetic data-storage development. reports that they have "found a way to manipulate the magnetization of the vortex's core without applying an external magnetic field to the disk. Instead, they applied a current."

Although the applied current is electrical in nature, being based on electrons, it isn't a stream of moving electrons. It is a “spin current,” a stream of moving spins. Spin is an intrinsic property of electrons that essentially imparts them with a tiny magnetic field, or magnetic “moment,” pointing either up or down. If several electrons are placed in a row, a spin can propagate down the line; many propagating spins produces a spin current.

Across the globe, teams of researchers are working to build viable spin-based electronic devices – spintronics – using spin currents. This group's work opens the possibility that simple magnetic disks can serve as the building blocks for spintronic devices like memory cells, where each bit of information would be stored as the direction of the vortex-core's field. Vortex-core switching could be an efficient way of writing data to a memory device.
Massive amounts of data will need to be practicably stored in order to contain the amounts of information in a human brain. This development will perhaps bring us closer to the capacity required. Stay tuned.

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