Physicists 'record' magnetic breakthrough

Feb 07, 2012
Experimental images showing the repeated deterministic switching of nano islands. Initially the two nano islands have different magnetic orientation (black and white respectively). After the application of a single pulse, the magnetic direction of both islands changes. Further pulses repeat the process, switching the magnetic state back and forth. Credit: Johan Mentink and Alexey Kimel, Radboud University Nijmegen; Richard Evans, University of York

An international team of scientists has demonstrated a revolutionary new way of magnetic recording which will allow information to be processed hundreds of times faster than by current hard drive technology.

The researchers found they could record information using only heat - a previously unimaginable scenario. They believe this discovery will not only make future magnetic recording devices faster, but more energy-efficient too.

The results of the research, which was led by the University of York's Department of Physics, are reported in the February edition of Nature Communications.

York physicist Thomas Ostler said: "Instead of using a magnetic field to record information on a magnetic medium, we harnessed much stronger internal forces and recorded information using only heat. This revolutionary method allows the recording of Terabytes (thousands of Gigabytes) of information per second, hundreds of times faster than present hard drive technology. As there is no need for a magnetic field, there is also less ."

Visualisation of ultrafast heat-induced magnetic switching. Before the laser pulse, the two components of the ferrimagnetic material Fe (Blue) and Gd (Red) are aligned anti-parallel to each other. The 60 femtosecond duration laser pulse rapidly heats the material and this alone induces a transient ferromagnetic-like state, where the Fe and Gd moments are aligned in parallel. After the laser pulse the moments relax to their usual state completing a single switching event in less than 5 picoseconds. Credit: Richard Evans, University of York

The multinational team of scientists included researchers from Spain, Switzerland, Ukraine, Russia, Japan and the Netherlands. Experimental work was carried out at the Paul Scherrer Institut in Switzerland, the Ioffe Physical Technical Institute of the and Radboud University Nijmegen, Netherlands.

Dr Alexey Kimel, from the Institute of Molecules and Materials, Radboud University Nijmegen, said: "For centuries it has been believed that heat can only destroy the magnetic order. Now we have successfully demonstrated that it can, in fact, be a sufficient stimulus for recording information on a magnetic medium."

Modern technology employs the principle that the North pole of a magnet is attracted to the of another and two like poles repulse. Until now it has been believed that in order to record one bit of information – by inverting the poles of a magnet – there was a need to apply an external . The stronger the applied field, the faster the recording of a magnetic bit of information.

However, the team of scientists has demonstrated that the positions of both the North and South poles of a magnet can be inverted by an ultrashort heat pulse, harnessing the power of much stronger internal forces of magnetic media.

Explore further: Vortex of electrons provides unprecedented information on magnetic quantum states in solids

More information: The paper “Ultrafast heating as a sufficient stimulus for magnetization reversal in a ferrimagnet” is published in Nature Communications on Tuesday, 7 February. dx.doi.org/10.1038/ncomms1666 ;

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User comments : 15

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jalmy
4.2 / 5 (5) Feb 07, 2012
Awesome! When can I buy one??
holoman
3 / 5 (3) Feb 07, 2012
Not bad, now imagine using the electron spin of the molecules.

This would increase the densities another hundred or thousand.

colossalstorage.net is proposing this direction.
Yogaman
3.5 / 5 (8) Feb 07, 2012
1. Good news: The immense amount of data that's needed for natural language and real-world interaction will be available.

2. The latency of the rotating medium won't change, so devices like FLASH must remain part of the memory hierarchy for smaller (1GB or less?) files.

3. It'll take lots of DRAM to buffer the other end of the "Terabytes per second". To match 1 TB/s, you need >300 SDRAM-400 (max 3.2 GB/s each) modules working in parallel. Today's SDR-400 modules come with 0.5-2 GB, so your main memory will contain at least 150 GB at a cost of about $4000, assuming $13/0.5 GB module. Anything less, and you're wasting disk drive performance! So these drives are great for the Cloud, but mismatched for the typical home PC (as we know it today).

4. What bus will get the data from the drive to the PC? Experimental OFDM equipment is now working up to 1 Tb/s, so only a factor 10 or so to go. This further suggests that this new technology will take a long time to reach the home.
Jat
2.3 / 5 (3) Feb 07, 2012
It'll take lots of DRAM to buffer the other end of the "Terabytes per second".


If we can get the read speed to increase as well, then we can do away with RAM all together...

hemitite
4 / 5 (4) Feb 07, 2012
Get set for another "box". What I see is a replacement medium for the DVD family with a writing laser and a reading magnetic head.

These media changes are the salvation of the Sony's of the world that get to charge a high price for the new box before the Koreans and the Chinese flood the market with their $25 sets.
gurloc
1 / 5 (5) Feb 07, 2012
Interesting but if this technology was implemented tomorrow it would make no difference to consumers. Hard drives are not electromagnetically limited, their speed is mechanically limited by the rotational speed of the platters. You would need a fundamentally different mechanical design to see any benefit from this technology unless it allows you to increase the data density on the media which the article does not discuss.
Yogaman
5 / 5 (4) Feb 07, 2012
"If we can get the read speed to increase as well, then we can do away with RAM all together..."

No. Even if read and write peak rates are symmetrical, there's still a huge latency before the first bits transfer, so there'll still be a need for fast bulk RAM above and beyond the multi-level on-chip caches; CPUs can't wait milliseconds for media to rotate.
Eoprime
5 / 5 (3) Feb 07, 2012
ähm, anyone else missing ... hm ... some information in this news?

Ok its cool you can flip a magnetic bit with a IR laser, but I would like to know more about the experiments they have done ect. like in ever other article after following a link. In this case the missing link.

Voleure
1 / 5 (1) Feb 07, 2012
Magneto-optical drives were all the rage many years back... a new twist no need for an external magnetic field while heating during writes.
gmurphy
not rated yet Feb 07, 2012
@Eoprime, I was thinking the same thing, the physical mechanism behind this phenomenon is conspicuously absent, nothing to see here, move along :)
javjav
not rated yet Feb 07, 2012
It'll take lots of DRAM to buffer the other end of the "Terabytes per second".


If we can get the read speed to increase as well, then we can do away with RAM all together...


In most cases you do not need much more RAM, what you need is faster processors. For example, I am thinking in UHDTV stereo formats (Ultra HDTV, 2 x 8K resolution at 60hz), it looks so real that you can not distinguish from reality. It already exists but it is extremely expensive because of the storage bandwidth needs, which is the point of this technology. My example means 11 Gigabyte/sg uncompressed for professional production and 1 Gigabyte/sg compressed for end users. But you only need to read a frame at that speed, process it, display it, and discard it. No need to store it in RAM for more time, so 10GB of RAM for production (1GB RAM for end user) is enough RAM for the application (add some more GB for additional processing) that amount of RAM is already available in today computers.
UberGoober
not rated yet Feb 07, 2012
A lot of people jumping up and down here like this is such a breakthrough... think about it for a minute. They are talking about writing data only. Reading it is still a spinning platter under a magnetic read head. Maybe the increased density, coupled with higher platter speeds will give a decent increase to read performance. But what about MTBF, data reliability and power? This is definitely interesting but seems to be more of an incremental step forward.
Husky
not rated yet Feb 08, 2012
Yogaman raised an interesting point about buffering/caching such a fast disk with Dram, putting the price considerably out of home entertainment use, but perhaps this could be resolved by a multi level cache DRAM L1 cache, SSD L2 cache ---> disk , also as the data density increases, smaller 2 inch platter could be used allowing higher 15000 RPM rotational speeds drawing the same amount of juice a 7200 rpm 3,5 platter would (very rougly) also random reads would benefit from the shorter seekhead paths, but there is a real challenge for HD producers to stay in the game as SSD is slowly but steadily creeping up towards them...
javjav
not rated yet Feb 08, 2012
They are talking about writing data only. Reading it is still a spinning platter under a magnetic read head.


I not agree, writing magnetic data faster also means that you can increase the density proportionally, and the read speed will follow. In today disks you can not make smaller bits just because the magnetic heads need extra time to stabilize the bit that they are writing. Reading it is much faster because you do not need to invert the magnetic particle polarization, you only need to detect it's magnetic field, which in principle is only limited by speed of light
physicsteacher
not rated yet Feb 12, 2012
Not bad, now imagine using the electron spin of the molecules.

This would increase the densities another hundred or thousand.

colossalstorage.net is proposing this direction.

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