New Double Helixes Store Magnetic Information in Three Dimensions

Because we've almost stretched 2D architecture to its limits.
Loukia Papadopoulos

Today, magnets have many applications being used for energy generation, data storage, and computing. But magnetic computing devices in two-dimensional systems are quickly approaching their shrinking limit.

That's why, we have witnessed a growing trend in moving to three dimensions, where higher densities can be achieved and three-dimensional geometries can offer new functionalities.

Now, an international team led by Cambridge University’s Cavendish Laboratory has used an advanced 3D printing method they developed to create magnetic double helices that produce nanoscale topological textures in the magnetic field, opening the door to the next generation magnetic devices. 

New Double Helixes Store Magnetic Information in Three Dimensions
Source: Donnelly, C., Hierro-Rodríguez, A., Abert, C. et al./Nat. Nanotechnology

“There has been a lot of work around a yet-to-be-established technology called racetrack memory, first proposed by Stuart Parkin. The idea is to store digital data in the magnetic domain walls of nanowires to produce information storage devices with high reliability, performance, and capacity,” said Claire Donnelly, the study’s first author from Cambridge’s Cavendish Laboratory, who has recently moved to the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Physics of Solids.

“But until now, this idea has always been very difficult to realize, because we need to be able to make three-dimensional magnetic systems and we also need to understand the effect of going to three dimensions on both the magnetization and the magnetic field.”

“So, over the last few years, our research has focused on developing new methods to visualize three-dimensional magnetic structures — think about a CT scan in a hospital, but for magnets. We also developed a 3D printing technique for magnetic materials.”

The researchers aim to now explore the full potential of going from two to three dimensions in terms of the magnetic field. They argue that the strongly bonded textures in the magnetic helices could be a potential carrier of information and offer new possibilities for particle trapping, imaging techniques, and smart materials.

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