Researchers at Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) and the FOM Foundation presented a promising new technology, which potentially allows data to be stored 1,000 times as fast, on 10 July. The technology, in which ultra-short laser pulses generate a ‘spin current’, also opens the way to future optical computer chips.
A hard drive stores bits in the form of tiny magnetic domains. "The number of bits has been growing rapidly for many years, but the write speed has hardly increased. There’s a need for a new data storage technology", said TU/e researcher Sjors Schellekens. He was the lead author of a publication in ‘Nature Communications’, in which (together with some colleagues) he presented the new technology.
The physicists, led by TU/e professor prof.dr. Bert Koopmans, use a special property of electrons, the spin – a kind of internal compass in the electron. Using ultra-fast laser pulses they generate a flow of electrons in a material which all have the same spin. The resulting ‘spin current’ changes the magnetic properties of the material.
"There was discussion among physicists about whether the generated spin current is actually able to cause the change in magnetization. We now definitely show that this is really the case", says Schellekens.