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Information Recorded Using Only Laser-Induced Heat

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YORK, England, Feb. 15, 2012 — A novel way of magnetic recording enables information processing that is hundreds of times faster than current hard-drive technology.

Previously, it was believed that magnetic recording required the application of an external magnetic field, which inverted magnetic poles. The stronger the applied field, the faster the recording of a magnetic bit of information.

Experimental images showing the repeated deterministic switching of nano islands. Initially, the two nano islands have different magnetic orientation (black and white, respectively). After the application of a single pulse, the magnetic direction of both islands changes. Further pulses repeat the process, switching the magnetic state back and forth. (Image: Johan Mentink and Alexey Kimel, Radboud University Nijmegen; Richard Evans, University of York)

But scientists at the University of York and an international team of researchers from Spain, Switzerland, Ukraine, Russia, Japan and the Netherlands discovered that they could record information using only heat — a previously unimaginable scenario.

“For centuries it has been believed that heat can only destroy the magnetic order,” said Dr. Alexey Kimel of the Institute of Molecules and Materials at Radboud University in Nijmegen, the Netherlands. “Now we have successfully demonstrated that it can, in fact, be a sufficient stimulus for recording information on a magnetic medium.”

Visualization of ultrafast heat-induced magnetic switching. Before the laser pulse, the two components of the ferromagnetic material Fe (blue) and Gd (red) are aligned antiparallel to each other. The 60-fs laser pulse rapidly heats the material, and this alone induces a transient ferromagnetic-like state, where the Fe and Gd moments are aligned in parallel. After the laser pulse, the components relax to their usual state, completing a single switching event in less than 5 ps. (Image: Richard Evans, University of York)

They demonstrated that the inversion of magnetic poles can be achieved with an ultrashort heat pulse, harnessing the power of much stronger internal forces of magnetic media.

“Instead of using a magnetic field to record information on a magnetic medium, we harnessed much stronger internal forces and recorded information using only heat,” said Thomas Ostler, a University of York physicist. “This revolutionary method allows the recording of terabytes (thousands of gigabytes) of information per second, hundreds of times faster than present hard drive technology.”

The research appeared in the Feb. 7 issue of Nature Communications.

For more information, visit:
Feb 2012
Alexey KimelCommunicationsEnglandEuropehard drive technologyinformation processingmagnetic fieldmagnetic pole inversionmagnetic polesmagnetic recordingRadboud University NijmegenResearch & TechnologyThomas Ostlerultrashort heat pulseUniversity of Yorklasers

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