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Sci-Tech

Scientists invent new material for storing data

The ultra-thin multilayer film harnesses tiny magnetic whirls called skyrmions to store and process data on magnetic media.

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Associate Professor Yang Hyunsoo (left) and research fellow Shawn Pollard are part of the team at the National University of Singapore working on the use of skyrmions as data carriers.

NUS

A nano-sized piece of film could hold the key to storage that is faster, holds more data and uses less power compared with current solid-state memory.

Scientists at the National University of Singapore's Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering have combined cobalt and palladium into a film that's capable of housing stable skyrmions, which are swirling magnetic textures a few nanometers in size that can store and process data, the university said Monday in a statement.

Skyrmions, which were discovered in magnetic materials in 2009, are usually stabilized with a magnetic field. The new material allows for the creation of "stable magnetic skyrmions at room temperature without the need for a biasing magnetic field," the university said.

Skyrmions are "topologically protected ... against fluctuations, thus providing an ultimately small cell size for magnetic memories," Associate Professor Yang Hyunsoo told CNET.

The need for more data storage has become critical as the amount of content continues to grow. Data is a finite resource, and the amount generated is expected to grow by more than 10 times in the next decade. Skyrmions could help solve the need for more storage.

While information is stored on magnetic material just like a hard disk drive, it can use a skyrmion as the basic "bit" of information. Once the research team figures out how to create fully 3D skyrmion architectures and stack up the film, it'll be possible to increase the density by a factor of 10 to 100 times, allowing for even more storage using the racetrack memory method.

That said, don't get your hopes up just yet. As with all scientific research, potential commercialization is still years away.

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