Magnetic Swirling Patterns May Offer A New Solution To Data Storage

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Due to our growing dependence on data, scientists are always looking for stable ways to store electronic files. A multinational team comprised of experts from the United States, China and Germany found that magnetic whirling patterns known as skyrmions could someday become data storage solutions.

What Makes These Skyrmions Particularly Interesting?

Skyrmions typically require an external magnet for stability. They exist in spinning circle patterns.

However, the scientific team found that the skyrmions they made didn’t need those outside magnets. They think that’s the case because of a magnetic field generated during the process. Furthermore, they could apply a magnet and make the skyrmion reverse itself without causing disruptions.

The scientists made a disk from iron germanide, then used electron holography technology to confirm the presence of a skyrmion in the middle of it. Because humans can switch the skyrmion pattern back and forth so quickly and easily with a magnetic field as small as 200 millitesla, the scientists feel confident about future applications of the skyrmion structure could be used as improvements for conventional data storage devices.

Further Research to Support the New Study

Even though skyrmions used for data storage isn’t a mainstream idea yet, numerous scientists besides those mentioned above are excited about the possibilities that exist and are working hard to bring scientific ideas to life in realistic ways.

Researchers from the National University of Singapore’s engineering department have done work surrounding data storage and skyrmions, too. They’ve invented an extremely thin, multilayered film made from cobalt and palladium that could keep skyrmion spin patterns stable. During the project, they created skyrmions at room temperature through a process that didn’t require using a biased magnetic field.

Additionally, 12 scientists from MIT have found a way to make skyrmions on demand in specific locations. They note that their method writes the swirl formations very quickly.

In the first study mentioned, the team admitted the discovery they made would not be useful in widespread applications until they could craft the technology through simpler, more industrialized methods. When making remarks about National University of Singapore study, one of the researchers echoed comments similar to those uttered by the MIT group and discussed how formulating a skyrmion without a magnetic field made the process more streamlined.

Storage Requirements Are Rapidly Rising

Although many people are aware that society’s overall dependence on data is going up, they probably don’t realize how much. Specifically, statistics indicate that storage requirements grow by about 40 percent per year. The work in progress is valuable, especially since the limitations of conventional magnetic storage systems are nearly reached as data consumption continually goes up. Perhaps all the scientific groups could collaborate with a similar goal in mind.

Skyrmion research for data storage is far from new. In 2013, scientists from the University of Hamburg read and wrote to skyrmions. However, in a press release, they mentioned that skyrmion data storage in familiar devices would not be possible within the foreseeable future because of remaining obstacles to overcome.

No Feasible Method for Reading the Data Exists

A major challenge that still exists with this high-tech data storage method is coming up with a way to read the data. Scientists can do it now by using X-ray magnetic spectroscopy. However, the equipment is too expensive and complicated to become part of a data memory system. The required X-ray lenses alone cost at least $40,000 apiece.

The diligent work from scientists has resulted in impressive discoveries about how to potentially use skyrmions to solve data storage woes. Even though the manifestation of that ability may be years or decades away, it’ll still be fascinating watching it develop.

About the Author

Contributed by: Kayla Matthews, a technology writer and blogger covering big data topics for websites like Productivity Bytes, CloudTweaks, SandHill and VMblog.


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