A team of scientists working at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory and led by Northern Illinois University physicist and Argonne materials scientist Zhili Xiao has created a new material, called “rewritable magnetic charge ice,” that permits an unprecedented degree of control over local magnetic fields and could pave the way for new computing technologies.
The scientists’ research report on development of magnetic charge ice is published in the May 20, 2016 issue of the journal Science. With potential applications involving data storage, memory and logic devices, magnetic charge ice could someday lead to smaller and more powerful computers or even play a role in quantum computing, Xiao said.
Current magnetic storage and recording devices, such as computer hard disks, contain nanomagnets with two polarities, each of which is used to represent either 0 or 1 — the binary digits, or bits, used in computers. A magnetic charge ice system could have eight possible configurations instead of two, resulting in denser storage capabilities or added functionality unavailable in current technologies.
“Our work is the first success achieving an artificial ice of magnetic charges with controllable energy states,” said Xiao, who holds a joint appointment between Argonne and NIU. “Our realization of tunable artificial magnetic charge ices is similar to the synthesis of a dreamed material. It provides versatile platforms to advance our knowledge about artificial spin ices, to discover new physics phenomena and to achieve desired functionalities for applications.”