One of the more important scientific discoveries of the 19th century was the link between electricity and magnetism. Without this understanding electric motors and generators could not be explained and neither could light, an electromagnetic phenomenon. Now researchers at Argonne National Laboratory are examining materials that strongly couple electricity and magnetism for their possible use for computer memories.
While electricity and magnetism are linked, the electric properties of a material do not necessarily affect the material's magnetic properties, but that is not the case for 'magnetoelectrics.' The materials within this special class actually have their electric and magnetic properties coupled such that changing one property changes the other. The researchers took one of these materials, europium-titanium oxide (EuTiO3) and compressed its atomic structure. When the researchers applied a voltage to the material, the titanium atom shifted which electrically polarized the material and changed its magnetic order.
While there is still a great deal of work to be done first, magnetoelectric research could lead to advanced kinds of computer memory which combine the best of both electric and magnetic memories. Also we could see the materials being used to create non-binary memories that reach beyond the 0s and 1s of modern electronics.
Source: Argonne National Laboratory