New properties of magnetism can change our computers

Scientists propose using magnetism instead of electrons to process information and keep the development of cheaper and more powerful computers compromised by the heat they produce.

“A computer’s job is to send electrical current through a microchip. Although the amount is small, the current will not only carry information but also help heat up the chip. When you have a lot of components crammed together, the heat becomes a problem. This is one of the reasons why we have reached the limit of how much components can shrink. A magnetism-based computer would avoid the problem of overheating,” says Professor Kim Lefmann of the Physics of Matter department. Condensed, from the Niels Bohr Institute (NBI) and the University of Copenhagen. His study is published in the journal Nature Communications.

“Our discovery is not a direct recipe for making a magnetism-based computer. Rather, we have revealed a fundamental magnetic property that must be controlled if such a computer is to be designed,” he added in a statement.

To understand the discovery, it is necessary to know that magnetic materials do not necessarily have a uniform orientation. In other words, areas with north and south magnetic poles can coexist. These areas are called domains, and the border between a north and south pole domain is the domain wall.

Although the domain wall is not a physical object, it has several particle-like properties. It is an example of what physicists call quasiparticles, that is, virtual phenomena that resemble particles.

“It is well established that one can move the position of the domain wall by applying a magnetic field. Initially, the wall will react similarly to a physical object that is subject to gravity and accelerates until it impacts the surface below. However However, other laws apply to the quantum world,” explains Kim Lefmann.

“At the quantum level, particles are not just objects, they are also waves. This also applies to a quasiparticle, such as a domain wall. The wave properties imply that the acceleration slows down as the wall interacts with the atoms in the surroundings. Soon, the acceleration will stop completely, and the position of the wall will begin to oscillate.”

A similar phenomenon is observed for electrons. Here, they are known as Bloch oscillations after Swiss-American physicist and Nobel laureate Felix Bloch, who discovered them in 1929.

In 1996, Swiss theoretical physicists suggested that a parallel to Bloch oscillations could possibly exist in magnetism. Now, little more than a quarter of a century later, Kim Lefmann and his colleagues have managed to confirm this hypothesis. The research team has studied the movement of the domain walls in the magnetic material CoCl2 · 2D2O.

“We’ve known for a long time that it would be possible to verify the hypothesis, but we also understood that it would require access to neutron sources. Unusually, neutrons react to magnetic fields despite not being electrically charged. This makes them ideal for magnetic studies,” says Kim Lefmann.

Neutron sources are large-scale scientific instruments. Worldwide, there are only about twenty installations and the competition for beam time is fierce. The team has only now managed to get enough data to satisfy Nature Communications editors.

“We had beamtime at NIST in the US and ILL in France respectively. Fortunately, conditions for magnetic research will improve greatly as the ESS (European Spallation Source) goes live in Lund, Sweden,” says Kim. Lefmann.

To clarify, he emphasizes that even if it is quantum mechanics, a computer based on magnetism would not be a type of quantum computer. “In the future, quantum computers are expected to be able to tackle extremely complicated tasks. But even then, we will still need conventional computers for more ordinary computing. This is where magnetism-based computers could become relevant better alternatives to today’s computers.” “, he concluded.

We wish to thank the writer of this article for this incredible material

New properties of magnetism can change our computers