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Skyrmions could revolutionize next generation devices

Lorentz TEM image reconstruction of a skyrmion lattice in FeGe taken using the FEI Titan3 G2 60-300 S/TEM at -13°C and 50mT applied magnetic field. Color in the image corresponds to the direction of the in-plane magnetic field using the pinwheel at the bottom left (i.e. red corresponds to a magnetic field pointing to the right, cyan to the left). With electronic devices getting smaller and more powerful with every generation, there is a significant need for new materials to drive innovation. A multidisciplinary collaboration at The Ohio State University with researchers in the departments of Physics and Materials Science and Engineering are currently studying a number of materials that could revolutionize next generation devices. One promising class of materials forms magnetic structures called skyrmions, which can be thought of as swirling magnetic fields much like a vortex. These structures can be used to store and compute data much more efficiently than current technologies and have been predicted to form at sizes more than 10,000 times smaller than a human hair.

Professor David McComb, the director of CEMAS, and graduate student Bryan Esser have been instrumental in understanding the complex conditions under which these structures form and the way in which they interact with the underlying microstructure. Using the state-of-the-art capabilities available at CEMAS, they have been able to directly image the magnetic fields within this interesting class of materials and even to affect them by applying and changing external magnetic fields and lowering the temperature down to cryogenic levels. Currently, they are working with their collaborators to fully stabilize skyrmions at or above room temperature.

Using the full suite of instruments at CEMAS has allowed the Ohio State collaboration to rapidly grow over the last two years, being awarded several large grants and winning a number of student awards at national conferences.