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Material Shows Promise As Memory For Electronics
November 30, 2017

Smartphones and computers wouldn’t be nearly as useful without room for lots of apps, music and videos.

Devices tend to store that information in two ways: through electric fields (think of a flash drive) or through magnetic fields (like a computer’s spinning hard disk). Each method has advantages and disadvantages. However, in the future, our electronics could benefit from the best of each.

“There’s an interesting concept,” says Chang-Beom Eom, the Theodore H. Geballe Professor and Harvey D. Spangler Distinguished Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “Can you cross-couple these two different ways to store information? Could we use an electric field to change the magnetic properties? Then you can have a low-power, multifunctional device. We call this a ‘magnetoelectric’ device.”

According to information provided, in research published recently in the journal Nature Communications, Prof. Eom and his collaborators describe not only their unique process for making a high-quality magnetoelectric material, but exactly how and why it works.

Magnetoelectric materials – which have both magnetic and electrical functionalities, or “orders” – already exist. Switching one functionality induces a change in the other.

“It’s called cross-coupling,” says Prof. Eom. “Yet, how they cross-couple is not clearly understood.”

Gaining that understanding, he says, requires studying how the magnetic properties change when an electric field is applied. Up to now, this has been difficult due to the complicated structure of most magnetoelectric materials.

In the past, says Prof. Eom, people studied magnetoelectric properties using very “complex” materials, or those that lack uniformity. In his approach, Prof. Eom simplified not only the research, but the material itself.

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