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Physicists based in Germany are said to ‘have cracked a new method’ towards creating magnetic switches and data storage devices which utilise geometrically-induced chiral properties. Prospective digital data storage devices tend to predominantly rely upon novel fundamental magnetic phenomena. By better understanding such phenomena, scientists can build improved and more energy efficient memory chips and hard drives.

No two mirror images are the same; for example, the left hand is always different from the right – a left glove won’t fit your right hand and vice versa. Scientists use the term ‘chirality’ to describe this feature of objects which do not align with their mirror image. Such chiral effects are known to occur in magnetic materials, where magnetic textures also have chiral properties. The arrangement of individual magnetic moments inside the material could thus form right- and left-handed alignments. Under certain conditions, some textures behave like image and mirror image, that is, a left-handed texture cannot be made congruent with its right-handed version. Essentially, ‘the two textures can present different magnetic behaviours’ and a right-handed texture may be more energetically preferable than a left-handed texture. Because systems in nature tend to assume their lowest possible energetic state, the right-handed state is preferred.

Physicists have now completed the essential fundamental work for future storage devices: by using a novel approach to shaping magnetic thin films in curved architectures, they have successfully validated the presence of chiral responses in a commonly used magnetic material. This is thought to facilitate the creation of magnetic systems with desired properties which rely upon simple geometrical transformations. Hence, such chiral effects hold great technological promise: they could be helpful in the future development of highly energy-efficient electronic components such as sensors, switches, and non-volatile storage devices.

Applicants for Physics can reflect on this study and its novel, creative approach to shaping magnetic thin films, considering how such research may be applicable in other scientific sectors such as by helping to revolutionise the future of data storage.

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