Using an Electric Field to Affect Magnetism
Heat is a problem for our computers as it can degrade our components, but while we are typically concerned with our processors overheating, they are not the only components that can suffer. Hard drives and eventually magnetic-RAM will suffer from heat issues as an electric current is required to flip the magnetic fields within them, and that current will generate heat. Researchers at the University of Miami however, have found a way to change the direction of a magnetic field using an electric field, which can be produced without heat.
It has been known for some time that an electric field can affect a magnetic field, but this new work adds to our understanding. It takes advantage of a phenomenon called Rashba spin-orbit coupling, which comes from the interaction of an electric field and electron's spin. Magnetism comes from the spin of electrons. What the researchers discovered is that by creating a capacitor, in which one element is magnetic, the orientation of the magnetic field can be changed by charging the capacitor.
Potentially this could lead to denser magnetic memory, as the reduction in heat will allow individual elements to be placed closer together. It may also impact electromechanical devices including actuators, which convert an electrical signal into mechanical motion.
Source: University of Miami