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Scientists Create 'rewritable Magnetic Charge Ice'

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A depiction of magnetic charge ice.

A team of scientists has created a new material, called rewritable magnetic charge ice, that permits an unprecedented degree of control over local magnetic fields and could pave the way for new computing technologies.

Credit: Yong-Lei Wang and Zhili Xiao

Northern Illinois University (NIU) researchers, working at the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory, have created rewritable magnetic charge ice, a material permitting an unprecedented degree of control over local magnetic fields, which could lead to new computing technologies.

Magnetic charge ice could someday lead to small and more powerful computers or even play a role in quantum computing, according to NIU researcher Zhili Xiao.

Current magnetic storage and recording devices contain nanomagnets with two polarities, while a magnetic charge ice system could have eight possible configurations, resulting in denser storage capabilities or added functionality. Researchers previously focused on attempting to manipulate the unusual properties of "artificial spin ices," so called because the spins have a lattice structure that follows the proton positioning ordering found in water ice. However, researchers have been frustrated in their attempts to achieve global and local control of spin-ice magnetic charges.

The NIU team say they overcame this challenge by decoupling the lattice structure of magnetic spins and the magnetic charges. They used a bi-axis vector magnet to precisely and conveniently tune the magnetic charge ice to any of eight possible charge configurations, and then used a magnetic-force microscope to demonstrate the material's local write-read-erase multifunctionality at room temperature.

From NIU Newsroom
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