'Magnetricity' observed and measured for the first time

Oct 15, 2009
The magnetic equivalent of electricity in a ‘spin ice’ material: atom sized north and south poles in spin ice drift in opposite directions when a magnetic field is applied. Credit: UCL/LCN

(PhysOrg.com) -- A magnetic charge can behave and interact just like an electric charge in some materials, according to new research led by the London Centre for Nanotechnology.

The findings could lead to a reassessment of current magnetism theories, as well as significant technological advances.

The research, published today in Nature, proves the existence of atom-sized ‘ charges’ that behave and interact just like more familiar electric charges. It also demonstrates a perfect symmetry between and magnetism - a phenomenon dubbed ‘magnetricity’ by the authors from the LCN and the Science and Technology Facility Council’s ISIS Neutron and Source.

In order to prove experimentally the existence of magnetic current for the first time, the team mapped Onsager’s 1934 theory of the movement of ions in water onto magnetic currents in a material called spin ice. They then tested the theory by applying a to a spin ice sample at a very low temperature and observing the process using muons at ISIS.

The experiment allowed the team to detect magnetic charges in the spin ice (Dy2Ti2O7), to measure their currents, and to determine the elementary unit of the magnetic charge in the material. The monopoles they observed arise as disturbances of the magnetic state of the spin ice, and can exist only inside the material.

Professor Steve Bramwell, LCN co-author of the paper, said: “Magnetic monopoles were first predicted to exist in 1931, but despite many searches, they have never yet been observed as freely roaming elementary particles. These monopoles do at least exist within the spin ice sample, but not outside.

“It is not often in the field of physics you get the chance to ask ‘How do you measure something?’ and then go on to prove a theory unequivocally. This is a very important step to establish that magnetic charge can flow like electric charge. It is in the early stages, but who knows what the applications of magnetricity could be in 100 years time.”

Professor Keith Mason, Chief Executive of STFC said: “The unequivocal proof that magnetic charge is conducted in spin ice adds significantly to our understanding of electromagnetism. Whilst we will have to wait to see what applications magnetricity will find in technology, this research shows that curiosity driven research will always have the potential to make an impact on the way we live and work. Advanced materials research depends greatly on having access to central research labs like ISIS allowing the UK science community to flourish and make exciting discoveries like this.”

Dr Sean Giblin, instrument scientist at ISIS and co-author of the paper, added: “The results were astounding, using muons at ISIS we are finally able to confirm that magnetic charge really is conducted through certain materials at certain temperatures - just like the way ions conduct electricity in water.”

More information: Nature 461, 956-959 (15 October 2009); doi:10.1038/nature08500

Related stories:

Large-scale cousin of elusive 'magnetic monopoles' found
Magnetic monopoles detected in a real magnet for the first time

Provided by University College London (news : web)

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User comments : 13

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magpies
not rated yet Oct 15, 2009
Magnetic laser... Expect it soon.
Sean_W
1 / 5 (1) Oct 15, 2009
Are these spin ices hard to create, maintain and work with? Do they need to be cooled dramatically like the early superconductors did? I hope that these discoveries provide useful in advancing our understanding - eventually it might even make sense to me.
brant
not rated yet Oct 15, 2009
Monopoles were actually observed for the first time by Felix Ehrenhaft and his Magnetophoresis experiments. This paper also has a description of his experimental apparatus.
http://www.leedsk...ests.pdf

otto1923
not rated yet Oct 15, 2009
What would a magnetic laser do to a target anyways? Disrupt chemical bonds? Could this aptly be called a disrupter if weaponized?
pseudophonist
5 / 5 (1) Oct 16, 2009
How is a magnetic laser different to a normal laser?
Lasers are just a coherent beam of light (lots of cloned photons), meaning that its a collection of electroMAGNETIC waves.
It'd be really interesting to see if there's an analogy of the Hall effect for monopoles; if the electric field will bend the path of these magnetic charge carriers and what properties you can quantify from that experiment.
It'd also be cool to try to make a transistor type device.
nuge
3 / 5 (2) Oct 16, 2009
Could you be Magnetocuted?
Mercury_01
Oct 16, 2009
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Yes
5 / 5 (1) Oct 16, 2009
First application: Magnetic laser.
Second application: Magnetocuted? :)
The deep dark side of the human comes aloft.
Canman
not rated yet Oct 16, 2009
How about an integrated magnetonic computer chip?
20nmon
not rated yet Oct 16, 2009
How is this different from spintronics?
Klaus
not rated yet Oct 16, 2009
Gravitricity next?
nkalanaga
not rated yet Oct 16, 2009
Gravitricity may be a little difficult, as gravity isn't a polar force. If it was, we'd have positive and negative gravity, but negative gravity has never been observed, and most theories don't predict it.
sender
not rated yet Oct 17, 2009
Magnetodynamic Polymers Will Bring Tesla's Dream of Magnetospheric Energy Systems To Production
benrot
not rated yet Oct 18, 2009
why not extract energy directly from space,loads of icy water in state of supraconductivity.
at 21.20h sunday we observed a strange vision,there where a sort of ring with a center faintly enligthend, it moved from south to north slowly about we wieved it for five minutes,very impressing.

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