Skyrmions 10,000 times thinner than a human hair could advance high-density data storage

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Superimposing crystals in a superlattice results in a nanoscale magnetic structure of swirling spin orientations, represented from red to blue, which deflect electrons, represented by white dots. Credit: Adam Malin / ORNL, US Dept. of Energy

Scientists have discovered a strategy to superimpose dissimilar crystals with atomic precision in order to control the size of the resulting magnetic quasi-particles called skyrmions. This approach could advance high-density data storage and quantum magnets for quantum information science.

In typical ferro-magnets, the magnetic spins align up or down. Yet in skyrmions they twist and swirl, forming unique shapes like tiny porcupines or tiny tornadoes.

Tiny intertwined magnetic structures could break new ground in high-density data storage, where size matters and must be small. The project led by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory produced skyrmions as small as 10 nanometers – 10,000 times thinner than a human hair.

“The way we design and synthesize the superlattice creates the atomic-scale magnetic interactions responsible for the twisting of the spins,” said physicist Elizabeth Skoropata, who co-led the study with John Nichols, both alumni of ORNL.

Ho Nyung Lee of ORNL added, “Our discovery shows how to precisely design interfaces in quantum oxide heterostructures to create nanometer-sized skyrmions.

Reference: “Interfacial tuning of chiral magnetic interactions for large topological Hall effects in LaMnO3/ SrIrO3 heterostructures ”by Elizabeth Skoropata, John Nichols, Jong Mok Ok, Rajesh V. Chopdekar, Eun Sang Choi, Ankur Rastogi, Changhee Sohn, Xiang Gao, Sangmoon Yoon, Thomas Farmer, Ryan D. Desautels, Yongseong Choi, Daniel Haskel, John W Freeland, Satoshi Okamoto, Matthew Brahlek and Ho Nyung Lee, July 3, 2020, Scientists progress.
DOI: 10.1126 / sciadv.aaz3902


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