Faster and More Efficient Information Transfer Using Antiferromagnetic Rust

An electrical current excites the superposition of two magnons with linear polarization (indicated by the red and blue arrows). Subsequently, energy is transported through the antiferromagnetic insulator. This can be detected as electrical voltage.
Credit: Ill./©: Andrew Ross, JGU

Physicists use antiferromagnetic rust to carry information over long distances at room temperature.

Be it with smartphones, laptops, or mainframes: The transmission, processing, and storage of information is currently based on a single class of material – as it was in the early days of computer science about 60 years ago. A new class of magnetic materials, however, could raise information technology to a new level. Antiferromagnetic insulators enable computing speeds that are a thousand times faster than conventional electronics, with significantly less heating. Components could be packed closer together and logic modules could thus become smaller, which has so far been limited due to the increased heating of current components.

Information transfer at room temperature

So far, the problem has been that the information transfer in antiferromagnetic insulators only worked at low temperatures. But who wants to put their smartphones in the freezer to be able to use it? Physicists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) have now been able to eliminate this shortcoming, together with experimentalists from the CNRS/Thales lab, the CEA Grenoble, and the National High Field Laboratory in France as well as theorists from the Center for Quantum Spintronics (QuSpin) at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. “We were able to transmit and process information in a standard antiferromagnetic insulator at room temperature – and to do so over long enough distances to enable information processing to occur,” said JGU scientist Andrew Ross. The researchers used iron oxide (α-Fe2O3), the main component of rust, as an antiferromagnetic insulator, because iron oxide is widespread and easy to manufacture.

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