The combination technique that the Ohio State researchers invented is called "scanned probe ferromagnetic resonance imaging," or scanned probe FMRI, and it involves detecting a magnetic signal using a tiny silicon bar with an even tinier magnetic probe on its tip.
In Nature, they report a successful demonstration of the technique, as they imaged the inside of the magnetic disk 0.2 micrometers (200 nanometers) at a time. They used a thin film of a commercially available nickel-iron magnetic alloy called Permalloy for the disk.
"In essence, we were able to conduct ferromagnetic resonance measurements on a small fraction of the disk, then move our probe over a little bit and do magnetic resonance there, and so on," explained Denis Pelekhov, director of the ENCOMM NanoSystems Laboratory at Ohio State. "Using these results, we could see how the magnetic properties vary inside the disk."
Experts suspect that computer chips equipped with tiny magnets might one day provide high-density data storage. Computers with magnets in their central processing units (CPUs) would never have to boot up. The entire computer would be contained inside the CPU, making such devices even smaller and less power-hungry as well.
Hammel believes that the technique could one day be useful tool in biomedical research labs. Researchers could use it to study tissue samples of the plaques that form in brain tissues and arteries, and perhaps develop better ways of detecting them in the body. Knowing how these plaques form could advance studies of many diseases, including Alzheimer's and atherosclerosis.
|Contact: Chris Hammel|
Ohio State University