This striking result was published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology by an international group of scientists working at the
Anyone playing with two magnets can experience how they repel or attract each other depending on the relative orientation of their magnetic poles. The fact that in a given magnet these poles lie along a specific direction rather than being randomly oriented is known as magnetic anisotropy, and this property is exploited in a variety of applications ranging from compass needles to hard drives.
"For 'large' pieces of magnetic material," emphasized Dr
Using a scanning tunnelling microscope, an instrument capable of observing and manipulating an individual atom on a surface, LCN researchers and their colleagues discovered a new mechanism that controls magnetic anisotropy at the atomic scale.
In their experiment, the research team observed dramatic variations in the magnetic anisotropy of individual cobalt atoms depending on their location on a copper surface capped with an atomically-thin insulating layer of copper nitride.
These variations were correlated with large changes in the intensity of another phenomenon - the
"Electrical control of a property that formerly could only be tuned through structural changes will enable significant new possibilities when designing the smallest possible devices for information processing, data storage, and sensing," said LCN researcher Dr
In contrast to the more conventional mechanisms, this contribution to the magnetic anisotropy can be tuned electrically using the same process that drives many transistors, the field effect. These results are particularly timely because they support efforts to find material systems with large magnetic anisotropy that are free of rare earth elements, scarce commodities whose mining has large environmental impact.
Keywords for this news article include: Nanotechnology, Emerging Technologies,
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