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USACH research allows for minimizing the size of information storage devices

June 2, 2011

The project awarded at the beginning of this year, seeks to understand the magnetic behavior of nanostructures. This will favor their use for the production of new high-density information storage devices, magnetic sensors and other spintronic. As well, these magnetic nanostructures can be used in possible biomedical applications such the controlled delivery of medications.

In recent years it has become the costume that every so often the market comes out with memory devices that are forever smaller than they were before and with better memory capacity to store information. But, what needs to be studied and modified to achieve the production of smaller devices for these purposes?

Currently, Juan Escrig, Doctor in Science with a major in Physics and a professor in the Department of Physics of USACH, is the responsible researcher for the FONDECYT project that has the objective of answering the question: How can we change and manage magnetic properties when smaller particles are generated?

To apply nanostructures in different devices and positive architecture, it is important to control the size and shape of nanoparticles, as well maintaining their thermal and chemical stability. In this way, knowing the properties of these particles allows for miniaturization of the systems that are required by current technology.

A concrete example are magnetic random access magnetic memory devices (MRAM), which use magnetic nanostructures instead of electrical charges, allowing for a significant energy savings, with which cellular telephones and computers, among other devices, will operate continuously for longer periods.

What is the objective of using magnetic nanostructures? That computers can be turned on and off without losing the information or the content. Thus, in the future, computers can be turned off and on the same as a television or radio.

This FONDECYT project also seeks to find mechanisms for the application of novel data storage platforms known as racecourse memory. In principle, this memory would have a low cost with the high yield and reliability of the MRAM.

El Dr. Juan Escrig, together with his co-researcher Dora Altbir (members of the Millennium Nucleus on Basic and Applied Magnetism) will carry out theoretical research of these magnetic nanostructures (through analytical calculations and numeric simulations), which will be synthesized in diverse laboratory experiments. Magnetic nanowires and antidots will be synthesized in the Magnetism Laboratory of USACH, while more complex systems, such as nanotubes or modified systems will be produced by researchers of the University of Hamburg (Germany) and the Institute of Material Sciences (Spain).

Dr. Juan Escrig explains that the work consists of researching the magnetic properties of nanostructures with different geometries. In this sense, we will study the “digital fingerprint” (hysteresis curve) of ferromagnetic materials that changes as a function of the geometry and material of the nanostructure. Thus, for example, a nanostructure used to store information requires that the hysteresis curve be as wide as possible, while a nanostructure used as a sensor requires the opposite.

Theoretically researching the magnetic properties of these nanostructures will allow for predicting which systems will have interesting behavior. The research laboratories can identify which materials are the most appropriate to use in different applications, which implies savings of time, work and resources for the working teams.

Apart from the technological area, magnetic nanostructures have possible applications in the area of health, such as the delivery of medications within the body in which, through nanostructures, it is possible that medications digested by patients are released in specific parts of the body.

This FONDECYT project is a continuation of research carried out in previous years by Dr. Juan Escrig together with researchers of the Department of Physics. “We began with the study of the static properties of symmetrical systems such as disks, wires and tubes. What we want to do now is introduce more complex systems, with new problems such as asymmetric systems or with controlled modifications in their diameters. The project is focused on controlling the magnetic properties of the nanostructures by modifying their geometries”, explained Dr. Escrig.

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