Magnetricity a PossibilityCategory: Science & Technology
Posted: August 17, 2012 02:49PM
Electricity and magnetism are strongly related phenomena that also have many similar properties, but one property is electricity's alone. Quanta within electricity, like electrons, can have a single charge, which makes them a monopole. In magnetism however, no monopole particle has ever been discovered and there are even reasons to believe they cannot exist. Monopole quasiparticles have been found however, and researchers at the Joint Quantum Institute (JQI) have learned a bit more about them, which could lead to magnetricity; a current of magnetic monopoles.
The fractional quantum Hall effect causes electrons to interact with each other in such a way as to create isolated, fractional electric charges. The JQI researchers decided to craft an experiment that replicates the fractional quantum Hall effect with magnetism instead, to see if it could also create the isolated charges. They did this be creating "spin ice" that has atoms around into a pair of tetrahedrons with two atoms pointing into the tetrahedrons, and two pointing out. As the temperature drops to around 5 K, the atoms become frustrated because they want to change their orientation around and align with each other, but that is impossible in this geometry. The fluctuations this creates allows for magnetic monopoles to form.
Though this is not a true monopole, which may not exist, the ability to create fractional magnetic monopoles could allow for magnetricity. This new phenomena could potentially be utilized for new kinds of data storage and more, depending on the creativity of those working with it.