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Magnetic materials: Forging ahead with a back-to-basics approach

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Posted August 29, 2013
Magnetic materials: Forging ahead with a back-to-basics approach

Magnetic materials: Forging ahead with a back-to-basics approach
The atoms in a crystalline material known as Co4Pd1 are arranged into stacked layers labeled A, B and C (left). A single ‘mistake’ in this arrangement (right) can affect the material’s properties. Credit: 2012 EPLA

Scientists have recently started to explore the possibility of using an intrinsic property of the electron known as spin for processing and storing information. Magnetic fields can influence the dynamics of electron spin, so harnessing this potential relies on precision engineering of crystalline storage materials. Chee Kwan Gan and co‐workers at the A*STAR Institute of High Performance Computing and the A*STAR Data Storage Institute in Singapore have used theoretical calculations to show how the magnetic characteristics of specific materials can be controlled at the atomic level. Their results could lead to novel magnetic recording devices.

One promising route to such spintronic devices is to design structures consisting of alternating layers of different magnetic atoms. The strength of the magnetic influence is stronger in the direction of the multilayer stack than it is parallel to the planes of the atoms. This so-called perpendicular magnetic anisotropy is useful for spintronic memory devices because it allows a greater storage density than a conventional electronic device.

The properties of these structures, however, are highly sensitive to the precise arrangement of the crystal. Just one misplaced layer of atoms—a stacking fault—can noticeably alter device performance (see image). Previous studies usually ignored these special defects, “but nature sometimes makes ‘mistakes’,” explains Gan. “It is important to understand these defects and subsequently use them to control the material’s physical properties.”

Read more at: Phys.org

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