A team of US scientists has created a new material, called "rewritable magnetic charge ice", that permits an unprecedented degree of control over local magnetic fields and could pave the way for new computing technologies.
With potential applications involving data storage, memory and logic devices, magnetic charge ice could someday lead to smaller and more powerful computers or even play a role in quantum computing, said Zhili Xiao from Northern Illinois University, who led the team from US Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory.
"Our work is the first success achieving an artificial ice of magnetic charges with controllable energy states.
"Our realisation of tunable artificial magnetic charge ices is similar to the synthesis of a dreamed material. It provides versatile platforms to advance our knowledge about artificial spin ices, to discover new physics phenomena and to achieve desired functionalities for applications," he added.
Scientists have been highly interested in creating, investigating and attempting to manipulate the unusual properties of "artificial spin ices," so-called because the spins have a lattice structure that follows the proton positioning ordering found in water ice. They consider artificial spin ices to be scientific playgrounds, where the mysteries of magnetism might be explored and revealed.
The new study, detailed in the latest issue of the journal Science, assumes significance as researchers have been frustrated in their attempts to achieve global and local control of spin-ice magnetic charges.
"Although spin and magnetic charges are always correlated, they can be ordered in different ways," explained study lead author Yong-Lei Wang, who now holds a joint appointment with Argonne and Notre Dame.
"This work provides a new way of thinking in solving problems. Instead of focusing on spins, we tackled the magnetic charges that allow more controllability," he said.