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Magnetic Material Discovery Could Increase Storage

Ian Schuller, of the University of California, has discovered a new magnetic material that he is calling a “magnetic-oxide hybrid”. It could, according to the research, potentially help increase data storage space on hard drives.

“To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time that anything like this has been claimed in any material,” said Schuller.

The material is composed of a thin layer of nickel, which has magnetic and heat-sensitive properties, and a layer of vanadium oxide, the properties of which change with temperature. When vanadium oxide is cold it insulates, but at high heat it acts like a metal.

“By putting together an oxide and a magnetic material, we created an artificial material, which has unique magnetic properties. Because of the interaction at the interfaces – boundaries - between them, the magnetic properties are very unique,” Schuller stated.

A common magnet is always magnetic at room temperature. In order to remove its magnetic properties, it needs to be highly heated. To reactive the magnetic property, the magnetic needs to be placed in a magnetic field.

However, this new material can adjust such properties within a range of 10 degrees, which gets rid of the need to heat it to high temperatures in order to re-magnetize it.

David Lederman, a physicist at West Virginia University, said that controlling magnetic properties through applying an electric field as a voltage is highly interesting in data storage applications.

“Normally, magnetic properties are controlled by magnetic fields, but application of magnetic fields in small volumes is difficult to do. However, application of an electric field to a small volume is relatively easy, and the response is also a lot faster,” Lederman said.

Magnetic memory is composed of two elements. One is storage and consists of small magnetic parts, which can be reversed in a magnetic field. Live Science explains that this is the writing process and that the state of these parts is then read.

“The reader/writer is a "read head," which is sensitive to the state of the bit that is close by. The very same read heads that are used for magnetic memories are also used to detect small magnetic signals for a variety of applications,” the site explains. In this case, one application could be in data storage.

It could be possible to adjust the coercivity of this new material through application of an electric field. Although such execution has yet to been shown, it is theoretically possible and Lederman is keen to do so. He wishes the research to have a significant technological impact.

There are other potential uses for this new material too. For example, it could help develop a new transformer that would be able to cope with sudden power spikes, thus acting as a fault limiter.

It will be interesting to see if this development goes anywhere for data storage. Currently the storage market is dominated by standard hard disk drives and solid state drives, but there’s been a lot of recent research that could soon cause a change.


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