In an important step toward future data-storage technologies based on magnetism, a research group has determined how to control the magnetization of a “magnetic vortex,” a curling nanometer-sized magnetic structure present within tiny, millionth-of-a-meter-sized magnetic disks. Understanding the behavior of this type of structure is one of the main requirements of magnetic data-storage development.
Across the globe, teams of researchers are working to build viable spin-based electronic devices – spintronics – using spin currents. This group's work opens the possibility that simple magnetic disks can serve as the building blocks for spintronic devices like memory cells, where each bit of information would be stored as the direction of the vortex-core's field. Vortex-core switching could be an efficient way of writing data to a memory device.