New magnetic behavior in nanoparticles could lead to even smaller digital memories

Dec 19, 2013
New magnetic behavior in nanoparticles could lead to even smaller digital memories
This is a schematic representation of the antiferromagnetic coupling between a magnetic Fe3O4 soft core and a magnetic Mn3O4 hard shell. The image of an electronic high-resolution transmission microscope, superimposed on a map of electronic energy loss spectroscopy, reveals the high quality of the interface with a coherent increase between the two phases. Credit: UAB

Electronic devices such as mobile phones and tablets spur on a scientific race to find smaller and smaller information processing and storage elements. One of the challenges in this race is to reproduce certain magnetic effects at nanometre scale.

An international collaboration of scientists led by researchers from the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona Department of Physics and the Institut Catala de Nanociencia i Nanotecnologia, and with the participation of the Universitat de Barcelona, has been able to reproduce in particles measuring 10 to 20 nanometres a magnetic phenomenon of great importance in : the antiferromagnetic coupling between layers.

This phenomenon appears when coupling layers of materials with different magnetic properties, which allows controlling the of the whole device. This property has very important technological applications. For example, it forms an important part of data reading systems found in hard drives and in the MRAM memories of computers and mobile devices.

Researchers have managed for the first time to reproduce this in nanoscopic materials, measuring a mere few tens of atoms in diameter. They managed to do this by using iron-oxide particles surrounded by a thin layer of manganese-oxide and vice versa: manganese-oxide particles covered by a layer of iron-oxide. The discovery provides an unprecedented control of the magnetic behaviour of nanoparticles, since it permits controlling and easily adjusting their properties without having to manipulate their shape or composition, solely by controlling the temperature and the magnetic fields surrounding it.

"We've been able to reproduce a magnetic behaviour not previously observed in nanoparticles, and this paves the way for miniaturisation up to limits which seemed impossible for magnetic storage and other more sophisticated applications such as spin filters, magnetic codifiers and multi-level recording", explain Josep Nogués, ICREA research professor, and Maria Dolors Baró, professor of Applied Physics.

The research is published today in Nature Communications.

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Eikka
not rated yet Dec 19, 2013
in the MRAM memories of computers and mobile devices.


As far as I know, computers and mobile devices don't use MRAM because it's still more expensive than flash memory and not available in large-enough chip sizes for mass storage, and it's not directly compatible with the existing fabrication methods used to produce the SoC processing chips used in mobile devices so it cannot be integrated into existing designs.

Eikka
not rated yet Dec 19, 2013
According to wikipedia, 4 Megabytes of MRAM cost $25 in 2006

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