Investigations of the skyrmion Hall effect reveal surprising results
Researchers at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have made another important breakthrough in the field of future magnetic storage devices. Already in March 2016, the international team investigated structures, which could serve as magnetic shift register or racetrack memory devices. This type of storage promises low access times, high information density, and low energy consumption. Now, the research team achieved the billion-fold reproducible motion of special magnetic textures, so-called skyrmions, between different positions, which is exactly the process needed in magnetic shift registers thereby taking a critical step towards the application of skyrmions in devices. The work was published in the research journal Nature Physics.
The experiments were carried out in specially designed thin film structures, i.e., vertically asymmetric multilayer devices exhibiting broken inversion symmetry and thus stabilizing special spin structures called skyrmions. Those structures are similar to a hair whorl and like these are relatively difficult to destroy. This grants them unique stability, which is another argument for the application of skyrmions in such spintronic devices.
Since skyrmions can be shifted by electrical currents and feel a repulsive force from the edges of the magnetic track as well as from single defects in the wire, they can move relatively undisturbed through the track. This is a highly desired property for racetrack devices, which are supposed to consist of static read- and write-heads, while the magnetic bits are shifted in the track. However, it is another important aspect of skyrmion dynamics that the skyrmions do not only move parallel to the applied current, but also perpendicular to it. This leads to an angle between the skyrmion direction of motion and the current flow called the skyrmion Hall angle, which can be predicted theoretically. As a result, the skyrmions should move under this constant angle until they start getting repelled by the edge of the material and then keep a constant distance to it.
Within their latest research project, scientists of JGU and MIT now proved that the billion-fold reproducible displacement of skyrmions is indeed possible and can be achieved with high velocities. Furthermore, the skyrmion Hall angle was investigated in detail. Surprisingly, it turned out to be dependent on the velocity of the skyrmions, which means that the components of the motion parallel and perpendicular to the current flow do not scale equally with the velocity of the skyrmions. This is not predicted in the conventional theoretical description of skyrmions. Part of the solution of this unexpected behavior could be the deformation of the skyrmion spin structure, calling for more theoretical effort to fully understand the properties of skyrmions.
Scientists just took a big, “very positive” step towards developing what could be the first ‘universal cancer vaccine’.
The results from early trials in humans, along with research in mice, have just been published, and they suggest that the new technique could be used to activate patients’ immune systems against any type of tumour, no matter where it is in the body.
Unlike the vaccines we’re familiar with, this potential vaccine would be given to patients who already have cancer, rather than those at risk of getting it. It basically works by shooting tiny ‘darts’ containing pieces of RNA extracted from the patient’s cancer cells at the body’s own immune system, convincing them to launch an all-out attack on any tumours they come across.
By just changing the RNA inside those darts, the team can, in theory, mobilise the immune system against any kind of cancer. “[Such] vaccines are fast and inexpensive to produce, and virtually any tumour antigen can be encoded by RNA,” the team, led by researchers at Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz in Germany,reports in Nature.
“Thus, the nanoparticulate RNA immunotherapy approach introduced here may be regarded as a universally applicable novel vaccine class for cancer immunotherapy.”