New Means to Store Data in Unexpected Materials
Materials with magnetic properties have been used to store data for some time now because of how easily information can be written to them and how well they store the data. The reason ferromagnetic materials have these magnetic properties is because of positive and negative charges within them have aligned to build the materials' magnetic fields. Antiferromagnetic materials, in which the charges align to cancel each other out, have not been looked at for data storage before because of this unfavorable alignment, but researchers at Forschungszentrum Jülich, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne, University of Silesia, and Xi'an Jiaotong University have discovered that they may actually be better than traditional materials.
Ideally one would expect all of an antiferromagnetic material to have charges align to cancel out, but that is not the case. Such a material is actually made up of smaller magnetic domains, and inside of them the charges cancel out. The researchers saw this using atomic scale electron microscopy. They also saw that the borders of these domains are actually ferromagnetic and polar. That means that these two nanometer wide areas could potentially be used to store data at densities much greater than modern technologies.
Along with density, another benefit using these polar boundaries could have over traditional data storage methods is that it only takes a voltage pulse to write data. Such pulses require less energy than the current needed to write to modern magnetic memory.
Source: Forschungszentrum Juelich