Nanotechnology Helps Develop Highly Ordered Artificial Spin Ice

Spin Technology While nanotechnology has taken man to a completely different level, unique discoveries in the field of science continue taking place. Experts from the University of Leeds, the US Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory and the UK Science and Technology Facilities Council’s Rutherford Appleton Laboratory have crafted an artificial spin ice in a state of thermal equilibrium with the help of nanotechnology. This technology probably assists in understanding the exact configuration of the nanomaterial.

The artificial spin ice may allow scientists to analyze them in much greater detail, which is commonly termed as ‘magnetic monopoles’. It is assumed that magnetic monopoles are present in such structures. Researchers built the artificial spin ice with millions of tiny magnets and each is thousand times smaller than a grain of sand. A lattice known as a ‘frustrated’ structure apparently holds these magnets. It is presumed that all interactions between the atoms cannot be satisfied at the same time. In spin ice, magnetic dipoles with a north and south pole are probably arranged within tetrahedron structures. The dipoles supposedly arrange themselves into the lowest possible energy state, that is two poles pointing in and two pointing out. Every dipole seems to have magnetic moments, just like protons on H2O molecules in water ice, which attract and repel each other.

Dr. Christopher Marrows from the University of Leeds, commented, “Spin ices have created a lot of excitement in recent years as it has been realized that they are a playground for physicists studying magnetic monopole excitations and Dirac string physics in the solid state. However, until now all of the samples of these artificial structures created in the lab have been what we call ‘jammed’. What we have done is find a way to un-jam spin ice and get it into a well-ordered ground state known as thermal equilibrium. We can then freeze a sample into this state, and use a microscope to see which way all the little magnets are pointing. It’s the equivalent of being able take a picture of every atom in a room as it allows us to inspect exactly how the structure is configured.”

While inspecting the sample using magnetic force microscopy, investigators seemingly observed individual excitations pointing out monopole dynamics within the lattice. Magnetic monopoles are known to be hypothetical particles that appear to exist in spin ice. It is anticipated that understanding these monopoles in more detail can pave way for further advances within a novel technology field known as ‘magnetricity.’ In order to witness dynamically excitations from ground state itself, experts possibly have to regulate the interactions with state of the art lithographic techniques.

The research was published in the journal Nature Physics.

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