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How to clean up oil spills

September 12, 2012 3:38 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers have developed a new technique for magnetically separating oil and water that could be used to clean up oil spills. They believe that, with their technique, the oil could be recovered for use, offsetting much of the cleanup cost.

Magnetic insulator shows way to dissipationless electronics

August 20, 2012 8:01 am | News | Comments

A team of researchers at in Japan has demonstrated a new material that promises to eliminate loss in electrical power transmission. Their methodology for solving this classic energy problem is based on a highly exotic type of magnetic semiconductor first theorized less than a decade ago—a magnetic topological insulator.

IBM “waltzes” closer to using spintronics in computing

August 13, 2012 3:01 pm | News | Comments

Scientists at IBM Research and ETH Zurich in Switzerland report that they are the first to synchronize electron spins and image the formation of a persistent spin helix in a semiconductor. Until now, it was unclear whether electron spins could preserve encoded information long enough before rotating. This new work extends spin lifetime 30-fold, to 1.1 nanosec.


Discovery a big step toward room-temperature multiferroics

August 10, 2012 4:24 am | News | Comments

Multiferroics are expected to be applied to a new type of memory devices in which dielectric polarization is controlled by a magnetic field and magnetization is controlled by an electric field. However, multiferroic materials that function at room temperature are rare. In a breakthrough toward this goal, a  team in Japan and the U.K. have achieved ferroelectric polarization without a magnetic field after discovering that they could swap out atoms and still maintain control of the multiferroic’s dielectric and magnetic properties.

High-performance magnetic coupling research wins Navy grant

August 2, 2012 5:38 am | News | Comments

Traditional mechanical couplings and gears require lubrication, generate heat, emit vibrations and sound, suffer from structural wear and require significant maintenance. Correlated Magnetics Research has been tasked with a Small Business Innovation Research grant to design and develop high-torque magnetic couplings to produce quiet, maintenance free, power-transfer linkages for Naval systems and industrial applications.

MRAM could bridge memory gap

August 1, 2012 12:01 pm | News | Comments

Computers often do not run as fast as they should because they are constantly transferring information between two kinds of memory: a fast, volatile memory connected to the CPU, and a slow, non-volatile memory that remembers data even when switched off. A special class of universal memory called spin-transfer torque magnetic random access memory (MRAM) being explored by researchers in Singapore could help avoid this bottleneck.

Scientists demonstrate breakthrough in tunnel barrier technology

July 30, 2012 10:20 am | News | Comments

Researchers reporting fabrication of magnetic tunnel junctions using graphene between two ferromagnetic metal layers have demonstrated, for the first time, the use of graphene as a tunnel barrier—an electrically insulating barrier between two conducting materials through which electrons tunnel quantum mechanically. They accomplished the feat using a fully scalable photolithographic process.

“Rattle memory” moves magnetic data with a ratcheting magnetic field

July 23, 2012 7:36 am | News | Comments

Ion irradiation creates an asymmetric potential or 'ratchet' for the main walls (visualised as light yellow spheres). The bit with a magnetic coating is shifted one position to


Why powerlines confuse the internal compass

July 10, 2012 6:38 am | News | Comments

Migratory birds and fish use the Earth’s magnetic field to find their way. Researchers have recently identified cells with internal compass needles for the perception of the field—and can explain why high-tension cables perturb the magnetic orientation.

Molecule changes magnetism and conductance

July 5, 2012 7:35 am | News | Comments

One bit of digital information stored on a hard disk currently consists of about 3 million magnetic atoms. Researchers in Germany and Japan have now developed a magnetic memory with one bit per molecule. Using an electric pulse deliver by atomic force microscopy, the metal-organic molecule can be switched reliably between a conductive, magnetic state and a low-conductive, non-magnetic state.

Quantum bar magnets in a transparent salt

June 15, 2012 6:45 am | News | Comments

Scientists have managed to switch on and off the magnetism of a new material using quantum mechanics, making the material a test bed for future quantum devices. The team of researchers found that the material, a transparent salt, did not suffer from the usual complications of other real magnets, and exploited the fact that its quantum spins interact according to the rules of large bar magnets.

Research group switches magnetism of individual molecules

June 13, 2012 8:14 am | News | Comments

A breakthrough in control of nanoscale molecular magnets has been made at a German research institution. Despite their dense packing in a molecular layer, Dr. Thiruvancheril Gopakumar was able to use a scanning tunneling microscope to switch individual molecules between two magnetic states.

Spin currents found in topological insulators

June 13, 2012 5:14 am | News | Comments

Physicists in Germany have recently provided new insights into spintronics: In ultra-thin topological insulators, they have identified spin-polarized currents, which were first theoretically predicted six years ago. They have also presenteda method of application for the development of new computers.


“Dirt cheap” magnetic field sensor made from “plastic paint”

June 13, 2012 5:08 am | News | Comments

University of Utah physicists developed an inexpensive, highly accurate magnetic field sensor for scientific and possibly consumer uses based on a “spintronic” organic thin-film semiconductor that basically is “plastic paint.” Its inventors say the new type of magnetometer also resists heat and degradation, works at room temperature and never needs to be calibrated.

X-ray laser uncovers secrets of complex oxide material

May 16, 2012 10:48 am | by Mike Ross | News | Comments

An international team of researchers has used SLAC’s Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) to discover never-before-seen behavior by electrons in complex materials known for their strongly correlated structures. The unusual qualities of these materials, which include oxides such as striped nickelate, stem from the collective behavior of their electrons.

Honeycomb of magnets could usher in new type of computing

May 7, 2012 1:53 pm | News | Comments

The performance of magnetic storage devices is limited by the way magnetic domains interact when in close proximity. Researchers in the U.K. have demonstrated that a honeycomb pattern of nano-sized magnets in a material known as spin ice introduces competition between neighboring magnets, and reduces the problems caused by these interactions by two-thirds.

Magnetic testing process could deliver more reliable electronics

April 13, 2012 9:14 am | News | Comments

Thermal stress can cause debonding between thin layers in microelectronics. Taking advantage of the force generated by magnetic repulsion, researchers have developed a new technique for measuring the adhesion strength between thin films of materials used in these devices, and they hope to apply the method improve solar cells or microelectromechanical devices.

Magnetic field researchers achieve hundred-tesla goal

March 23, 2012 8:58 am | News | Comments

During a six-experiment pulse this week, the previous world record for laboratory-produced magnetic fields was broken by Los Alamos National Laboratory researchers. The hundred-tesla field, about 2 million times Earth’s magnetic field was produced with the help of a 1,200-MJ motor generator.

MRAM invention could give spintronics a boost

March 7, 2012 10:29 am | News | Comments

Researchers at Helmholtz Center in Germany have developed a magnetic valve that could be an enabling technology for spintronics. The new structure allows for data to remain stored even after electric current has been cut, and memory in the valve can be re-written indefinitely.

Engineers build an electrical switch for magnetic current

March 1, 2012 3:15 am | News | Comments

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute have put together a sandwich of a ferroelectric layer between two ferromagnetic materials that responded to a short electric pulse. This changes the magnetic transport properties of the material in such a way that information can be placed in four states instead of just two. The potential increase in storage density is great.

Scientists 'record' magnetic breakthrough

February 7, 2012 12:44 pm | News | Comments

Instead of using a magnetic field to record information on a magnetic medium, researchers in the U.K. recently harnessed much stronger internal forces and recorded information using only heat. This new method allows the recording of terabytes of information per second, hundreds of times faster than present hard drive technology.

New theory developed to explain ultrafast magnetism

February 2, 2012 12:57 pm | News | Comments

On the shortest of time scales magnetic spins do not behave according to existing theory. According to a research team which has formulated a new theory of ultrafast magnetism, the spins are not coupled and move at a different pace, dependent on the element they're part of.

Fabrication method pushes recording density to 3.3 Tb per square inch

February 1, 2012 6:17 am | News | Comments

In magnetic recording media, each individual bit of information is stored over an area containing tens of grains. Engineers have until now had difficulty pushing beyond a one terabit per square inch limit by either reducing grain size or reducing the grains per bit. Researchers in Singapore have solved the problem by using something called bit-patterned media.

Scientists manipulate magnetism without heating material

January 31, 2012 11:13 am | by Mike Ross, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory | News | Comments

Although of purely scientific interest for now, a method that researchers at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory have invented to alter magnetic properties in manganese-oxide materials without heating them up could greatly speed up low-voltage, non-volatile computer memory.

Scientists produce magnetic soap

January 24, 2012 4:47 am | News | Comments

A University of Bristol team has dissolved iron in liquid surfactant to create a soap that can be controlled by magnets. The discovery could be used to create cleaning products that can be removed after application and used in the recovery of oil spills at sea.

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