Nanoscale spin waves can replace microwaves

Sep 07, 2011
Spin waves spread from a magnetic nanocontact like rings on water. Credit: University of Gothenburg

A group of scientists from the University of Gothenburg and the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH), Sweden, have become the first group in the world to demonstrate that theories about nanoscale spin waves agree with observations. This opens the way to replacing microwave technology in many applications, such as mobile phones and wireless networks, by components that are much smaller, cheaper, and that require less resources. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nature Nanotechnology, the most prestigious journal in nanoscience.

"We have been in competition with two other research groups to be the first to confirm experimentally that were first made nearly 10 years ago. We have been successful due to our method for constructing magnetic nanocontacts and due to the special microscope at our collaborators' laboratory at the University of Perugia in Italy", says Professor Johan Åkerman of the Department of Physics, University of Gothenburg, where he is head of the Applied Spintronics group.

The aim of the research project, which started two years ago, has been to demonstrate the propagation of from magnetic nanocontacts. Last autumn, the group was able to demonstrate the existence of spin waves with the aid of electrical measurements, and the results were published in the scientific journal Physical Review Letters. The new results have been published in Nature Nanotechnology, the most prestigious journal in .

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.
The simulation of magnetic nanocontacts shows how spin waves spread like rings on water. The nanocontact has a diameter of 40 nanometre and the spin waves are created in a thin film of nickel-iron alloy, 3 nanometre thick.

The research group has used one of the three advanced spin wave microscopes in the world, at the university in the Italian town of Perugia, to visualise the motion. The microscope makes it possible to see the dynamic properties of components with a resolution of approximately 250 nanometre.

The results have opened the way for a new field of research known as "magnonics", using nanoscale magnetic waves.

"I believe that our results will signal the start of a rapid development of magnonic components and circuits. What is particularly exciting is that these components are powered by simple direct current, which is then converted into spin waves in the microwave region. The frequency of these waves can be directly controlled by the current. This will make completely new functions possible", says Johan Åkerman, who is looking forward to exciting developments in the next few years.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.
A simulation of six magnetic nanocontacts placed in a circle to illustrate how the nanocontacts can be placed in freely chosen patterns. All the signals synchronise in this case through the spin waves that propagate through the magnetic film.

Its magneto-optical and metallic properties mean that magnonic technology can be integrated with traditional microwave-based electronic circuits, and this will make completely untried combinations of the technologies possible. Magnonic components are much more suitable for miniaturisation than traditional .

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User comments : 10

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1.6 / 5 (8) Sep 07, 2011
Will this change the microwave oven? Will it be safer?
5 / 5 (1) Sep 07, 2011
@cap - This has nothing to do with the microwave oven, and how is it unsafe to begin with. stop microwaving your spoons.

Along those lines, I don't like how they start this article, because it leads us in the wrong direction of thought. Only midway through the article does it become clear that this is an advance in microwave modulation/communications. and basically nothing else at all.

I'm sure it comes none too soon, as it will definitely help with bandwidth and higher speed connections, but really, whoever wrote this article needs to call a spade a spade.
3 / 5 (4) Sep 07, 2011
When I clicked on the six magnetic nanocontacts video, I expected to hear some Jefferson Airplane as an accompaniment track.
2.3 / 5 (3) Sep 07, 2011
I bet that for people who are familiar with magnetic nanocontacts and nanoscale spin waves, this is really exciting news.
3 / 5 (2) Sep 08, 2011
I could allow us to microwave cat - finally...
5 / 5 (1) Sep 08, 2011
I am under your control... I will worship the Great Spaghetti Monster...
Woah! What happened?! I think I kinda blanked out there a bit while watching the videos.
not rated yet Sep 08, 2011
It looks like what they are talking about is a new way to generate microwave energy but will need traditional amplifiers to get to the powers needed for modern cell phones and such. I think this nanoscale work means nano watts generated. I don't see how this could help the reception of microwaves though.
4 / 5 (1) Sep 08, 2011
It would be interesting to see how one uses one device to communicate with another. I do not see in the links a theory on how to detect or couple these. These might be a good way to develop a virtual metamaterial.
not rated yet Sep 08, 2011
Sonhouse: for pretty much any circuitry I can think of, you have to generate microwaves as one of the signals involved and if you can do it, with this nanoscale circuit component, it's huge. The components used today in the microwave end of spectrum are seriously large, espeically in comparison to similar devices in other bands.

Another net plus is that you can directly detect, and immediately amplify, any in-band femtowatt microwave signal. Another huge savings in scale, cost, and accuracy. [It may even obviate a coming collision between 4G signals and GPS, due to FCC stupidity, using sharper bandpass filter circuitry.] Heck, almost makes me want to get back into the EE world. This is fun!
Rich K
not rated yet Sep 13, 2011
The first application for this will probably not be within the general publics view. Secure communications between satellites that does not come back into the atmosphere offers great military applications. Two satellites communicating information that is not detected anywhere but in space.