Computer files that allow us to watch videos, store pictures, and edit all kinds of media formats are nothing else but streams of "0" and "1" digital data, that is, bits and bytes. Modern computing technology is based on our ability to write, store, and retrieve digital information as efficiently as possible. In a computer hard disk, this is achieved in practice by writing information on a thin magnetic layer, where magnetic domains pointing "up" represent a "1" and magnetic domains pointing down represent a "0".
The size of these magnetic domains has now reached a few tens of nanometers, allowing us to store a Terabyte of data in the space of just about 4 square centimeters. Miniaturization, however, has created numerous problems that physicists and engineers worldwide struggle to solve at the pace demanded by an ever-growing information technology industry. The process of writing information on tiny magnetic bits one by one, as fast as possible, and with little energy consumption, represents one of the biggest hurdles in this field.
As reported this week in Nature, a team of scientists from the Catalan Institute of Nanotechnology, ICREA, and Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona, Mihai Miron, Kevin Garello, and Pietro Gambardella, in collaboration with Gilles Gaudin and colleagues working at SPINTEC in Grenoble, France, have discovered a new method to write magnetic data that fulfils all of these requirements.
Magnetic writing is currently performed using magnetic fields produced by wires and coils, a methodology suffering severe limitations in scalability and energy efficiency. The new technique eliminates the need for cumbersome magnetic fields and provides extremely simple and reversible writing of memory elements by injecting an electric current parallel to the plane of a magnetic bit. The key to this effect lies in engineering asymmetric interfaces at the top and bottom of the magnetic layer, which induces an electric field acro
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Institut Catal de Nanotecnologia