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How Shape-Shifting Magnets Could Help Build a Lower-Emission Computer


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Researchers at the University of Michigan, collaborating with chip-maker Intel, have created a new iron alloy that could be a major feature of magnet-based computers, fundamentally different, lower-energy devices than today's computers. They describe their work in "Engineering New Limits to Magnetostriction Through Metastability in Iron-Gallium Alloys," published in the journal Nature Communications.

Their alloy acts as a magnetostrictor. In the future, magnetostrictors might enable the use of tiny, changeable magnetic fields to form the zeroes and ones that make up the invisible bedrock of all computing devices.

Today's best magnetostrictors rely on rare-earth metals. The researchers were able to make an iron alloy that's twice as magnetostrictive as its rare-earth counterparts. It could help scientists build not only a cheaper computer, but also one that doesn't rely on rare-earth minerals whose mining generates excessive carbon.

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