Data storage speed and efficiency boost from new material

Swedish researchers have discovered a new material that can considerably improve the speed and efficiency of data storage in electronic devices. 

In an article published in the journal Nature Physics, a team from Uppsala University, Sweden, described a ferromagnetic alloy of cobalt and iron, which reduces so-called magnetic damping – the affect that occurs when a magnetic field moves through a conductor and leads to energy loss.

The new material reduces the level of damping to 10-4 – a level, which has previously been observed only in certain iron oxides.

The researchers compared the damping effect to the friction which occurs between a hockey puck and ice. This friction, the researchers said, stops the moving puck after a while due to resistance against the surface.

In a magnetic material, damping reduces the speed and efficiency with which data is being stored.

Increasing efficiency and reducing the size of storage devices is of utmost interest to engineers around the world. Due to the increasing demands of various gadgets including smartphones and computers, the industry needs new materials to continue meeting its targets.

The current state-of-the-art technology allows the creation of micrometre-sized magnetic storage devices and achieves data transfer speeds in the order of nanoseconds. This is enough for data transfers in the magnitude of 100 petabytes. However, the industry keeps pushing for more.

The new material by the Uppsala team could pave the way to the next qualitative step in data storage. The researchers said the material is easy to produce and magnetic even at room temperature.

The phenomenon of low damping in the new material can be explained by its internal electronic structure, in which the damping is proportional to the number of electronic states at the highest occupied energy level, the researchers said.

The study enabled the team to advance their understanding of the damping mechanism. The team believes that using the iron-cobalt alloy as a standard, they could arrive at even more energy efficient materials with even lower levels of damping.

Magnetic materials have proven very effective for the storage and transfer of data and were the natural successors to the punch card that was first used in the early 1700s. Subsequent developments, including magnetic tape and hard discs, enabled an explosion in information technology and today about 70 per cent of all data is stored on magnetic media.

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