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Magneto-electric memory technique developed that could boost PC and smartphone capacities

Magneto-electric materials could be used to boost memory capacities of PCs, smartphones and other electrical devices, according to researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. 

Memory technologies are based on one of two techniques. The first makes use of electric fields, while the second relies on magnetic fields.

Chang-Beom Eom, a professor of materials science and engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has suggested that, increasingly, devices could use both at the same time: “Can you cross-couple these two different ways to store information? Could we use an electric field to change the magnetic properties? Then you can have a low-power, multifunctional device. We call this a ‘magnetoelectric’ device.”

Working with a team of researchers, Eom recently published a study detailing a new process for making high-quality magneto-electric material, as well as its uses and how it actually works.

Magnoelectic materials possess both magnetic and electrical properties, but alternating between them isn’t an easy task. This is something the researchers have had to consider in their project.

“It’s called cross-coupling,” saidEom. “Yet, how they cross-couple is not clearly understood.”

To capitalise on this technology, scientists must explore the changes in magnetic properties when they’re combined with an electric field – which is a complex task. But Eom’s process changes this.

“We found that in our work, because of our single domain, we could actually see what was going on using multiple probing, or imaging, techniques,” he said.

“The mechanism is intrinsic. It’s reproducible — and that means you can make a device without any degradation, in a predictable way.”

In the study, EOM and his team relied on a range of synchrotron light sources from Chicago, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

“When you switch it, the electrical field switches the electric polarization. If it’s ‘downward,’ it switches ‘upward,'” he said . “The coupling to the magnetic layer then changes its properties: a magnetoelectric storage device.”

Further reading

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