IBM boffins unlock secret to atom-scale magnetism

IBM boffins unlock secret to atom-scale magnetism

Understanding atom-level magnetism helps in the creation of nano-scale chips

Researchers at IBM's Almaden Research Center in California have developed a new technique to explore and control magnetism at the atomic level.

"We can now position atoms and then measure and control their magnetic interactions within precisely designed structures," said IBM researcher Andreas Heinrich.

Researchers for instance build a chain of ten manganese atoms and measured how the magnetic properties changed as each new atom was added. They found that a chain containing an odd number of atoms had net magnetism, but chains with an even number of atoms had not.

The research is considered an essential step in the development of nanoscale microprocessors where single atoms or groups of atoms perform functions on a chip such as transistors and other microelectronic elements.

"We will then need alternative structures and, perhaps, altogether different ways of computing. Techniques like this can help us gain the knowledge needed to create those alternatives," said Heinrich.

The research can possibly also be applied to the field of spintronics. Researchers there are attempting to build computing devices by altering the electron state of atoms through magnetism.