Electricity and magnetism for electrical engineers.
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Electricity and magnetism; an introduction to the theory of electric and magnetic fields. Skip to main Skip to similar items.
What Is Magnetism? | Magnetic Fields & Magnetic Force
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The experiment demonstrated that magnetic properties can be created and annihilated in a nonmagnetic material with precise application of an electric field -- something long sought by scientists looking for a better way to store and retrieve information on hard drives and other magnetic memory devices. A material's magnetic properties are determined by the orientation of the electrons' spins.
In ferromagnetic materials, found in hard drives, refrigerator magnets and compass needles, all the electron spins are lined up in the same direction. These spins can be manipulated by applying a magnetic field -- flipping them from north to south, for instance, to store information as ones and zeroes.
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Scientists have also been trying different ways to create a "multiferroic state," where magnetism can be manipulated with an electrical field. The novelty here is that by designing a particular material, we managed to both create and eliminate magnetism in a controlled fashion on the nanoscale.
In this study, the team started with an antiferromagnetic material -- one that has small patches of magnetism that cancel each other out, so that overall it doesn't act like a magnet. Both antiferromagnets and ferromagnets show magnetic properties only below a certain temperature, and above that temperature they become non-magnetic.
By designing an antiferromagnetic material doped with the element lanthanum, the researchers found they could tune the properties of the material in such a way that electricity and magnetism could influence each other at room temperature.
Magnetism & electricity for beginners
They could then flip the magnetic properties with an electrical field. To see these changes, they tuned a scanning transmission X-ray microscope at SSRL so it could detect the magnetic spin of the electrons. The X-ray images confirmed that the magnetization had occurred, and was truly reversible.
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Next, the research team would like to test other materials, to see if they can find a way to make the effect even more pronounced.