Skyrmion Bags Could Allow More Denser Packing of Information in Skyrmion Systems

Using an emerging science known as skyrmionics, researchers from the Universities of Birmingham, Bristol, and Colorado Boulder have taken one step closer to creating futuristic data storage and processing devices.

Simulation of skyrmion bags in magnetic materials. (Image credit: University of Birmingham)

The focus of skyrmionics is to tap the properties of nanometer-sized structures in magnetic films, known as skyrmions. Skyrmions spin on the surface of the magnet similar to tiny vortices, and researchers consider that they could be used for the storage of considerably denser quantities of data than is possible at present using prevalent magnetic data storage methods on which modern computers depend.

Thanks to the shape of the skyrmion structures, it is also possible to transfer data encoded in them using considerably less power compared to what is achievable at present.

However, it has been difficult to arrange these new structures in a particular way that renders them capable of storing and transferring data.

In a new research, reported in Nature Physics, the research group of UK-based theorists and US-based experimentalists has established a means to combine multiple skyrmions together in structures known as “skyrmion bags,” which enable a considerably denser packing of information in skyrmion systems.

The challenge of improving our data storage is becoming increasingly urgent. We will need new technological approaches to increase the amount of data we want to store in our computers, phones and other devices, and skyrmion bags might be a route to this. Rather than using trains of single skyrmions to encode binary bits, each skyrmion bag can hold any number of skyrmions, massively increasing the potential for data storage.

Mark Dennis, Professor of Theoretical Physics, University of Birmingham

Dennis is also the lead author of the study.

The researchers have used computer simulations to model their method in magnetic devices. They have also successfully tested it in experiments involving liquid crystals.

It’s particularly exciting to see this technology at work in liquid crystal since it opens up new possibilities for advances in areas such as display screens, sensors or even solar cells.

Dr David Foster, Study Co-Lead Author, University of Bristol

In the 1960s, Professor Tony Skyrme of the University of Birmingham originally proposed skyrmions as a theoretical model of fundamental particles. That study, which was financially supported by the Leverhulme Trust and the US Department of Energy, shows how purely theoretical concepts in physics can result in novel and innovative technologies.

In February 2019, the University of Birmingham obtained funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) for a new multimillion-pound Centre for Doctoral Training in Topological Design at the University of Birmingham. It is expected that the center would train students, in partnership with industrial partners, to achieve advancements in the shape-related structures, resulting in new technologies such as skyrmionics.

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