Magnetic antiparticles offer new horizons for information technologies

Magnetic antiparticles offer new horizons for information technologies
Matter and antimatter in the nanoscale magnetic universe: a gas of skyrmions (purple) and antiskyrmions (green) generated from the trochoidal dynamics of a single antiskyrmion seed. Credit: Joo-Von Kim

Nanosized magnetic particles called skyrmions are considered highly promising candidates for new data storage and information technologies. Now, physicists have revealed new behavior involving the antiparticle equivalent of skyrmions in a ferromagnetic material. The researchers demonstrated their findings using advanced computer simulations that can accurately model magnetic properties of nanometer-thick materials. The results, which were obtained by scientists at Uppsala University in Sweden, at Kiel University and Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz in Germany, and at Université Paris-Saclay in France, were recently published in Nature Electronics.

Moving electrons around in circuits is the basis for creating useful functions in electronics. But would their guiding principles still apply for positrons, i.e., the antiparticle version of electrons? Besides their scarcity in nature, basic electrodynamics suggests that everything would essentially function the same way with positive charges as it does with the negative ones of electrons – up to a difference in sign since electrons and positrons move in opposite directions in electromagnetic fields.

However, this question remains open for nanoscale magnetic particles called skyrmions. Skyrmions represent whirls of magnetic moments that extend across a few nanometers and can be found in magnetic films a few atoms thick. In the same way that spheres and doughnuts have different topologies, skyrmions possess a special property called topological charge which plays a similar role to electric charges when their dynamics are concerned. For example, if an applied force causes skyrmions to be deflected toward the left, then that same force will lead antiskyrmions, their antiparticle counterpart, to deflect toward the right. Since the first experimental observations in 2009, skyrmions have been the focus of intense research because they offer new ways to store data and process information.

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