Magnetic breakthrough processes data 100 times faster than current hard-drive technology

February 8, 2012
Magnetic Reversal

Visualization of ultrafast heat-induced magnetic switching. Before the laser pulse, the two components of the ferrimagnetic material Fe (Blue) and Gd (Red) are aligned anti-parallel to each other. The 60 femtosecond duration laser pulse rapidly heats the material and this alone induces a transient ferromagnetic-like state, where the Fe and Gd moments are aligned in parallel. After the laser pulse, the moments relax to their usual state, completing a single switching event in less than 5 picoseconds. (Credit: Richard Evans, University of York)

Magnetic Experiments

Experimental images showing the repeated deterministic switching of nano islands. Initially the two nano islands have different magnetic orientation (black and white respectively). After the application of a single pulse, the magnetic direction of both islands changes. Further pulses repeat the process, switching the magnetic state back and forth. (Credit: Johan Mentink and Alexey Kimel, Radboud University Nijmegen; Richard Evans, University of York)

Magnetic Media

The ultimate magnetic storage medium, consisting of many individual nanometer-sized magnetic grains with a density of 10 petabytes per square meter. The data is written to the device using an ultrafast heating process to drive the reversal at a data rate of 200Gb/s. Compared to today's hard drive technology this would allow 10 times the amount of storage capacity and 300 times the performance. (Credit: Richard Evans, University of York)

revolutionary new magnetic recording technology that will allow information to be processed hundreds of times faster than by current hard drive technology has been developed by an international team of scientists led by the University of York’s Department of Physics.

The method uses an ultrashort heat pulse to switch magnetic polarity, eliminating the need to apply an external magnetic field.

York physicist Thomas Ostler said: “Instead of using a magnetic field to record information on a magnetic medium, we harnessed much stronger internal forces and recorded information using only heat.

This revolutionary method allows the recording of Terabytes (thousands of Gigabytes) of information per second, hundreds of times faster than present hard drive technology. As there is no need for a magnetic field, there is also less energy consumption.”

Dr Alexey Kimel, from the Institute of Molecules and Materials, Radboud University Nijmegen, said: “For centuries it has been believed that heat can only destroy the magnetic order. Now we have successfully demonstrated that it can, in fact, be a sufficient stimulus for recording information on a magnetic medium.”

Ref.: T.A. Ostler, et al., Ultrafast heating as a sufficient stimulus for magnetization reversal in a ferrimagnet, Nature Communications, 2012; [DOI:10.1038/ncomms1666]