The European research institution Jülich just released new information on “zero-point energy” and its effect on the stability of nanomagnets. If scientists can determine how to magnetically store data, information can be stored in extremely small spaces.
Quantum mechanics becomes important when we’re talking about small spaces, such as nanometers. Magnetic moments are difficult to stabilize, or point in designated directions. A specific direction corresponds to effectively storing data.
In order to save data, the magnetic moments of atoms in constant motion must be counteracted by energy barriers, which is dependent on the material used. Otherwise, the magnetic moments change and any information saved is then lost.
Zero-point energy makes it hard to stabilize magnetic moments: “Zero-point energy refers to random quantum fluctuations of the electromagnetic (and other) force fields that are present everywhere in the vacuum; in other words, an ’empty’ vacuum is actually a seething cauldron of energy.”
The Jülich researchers came up with a way to develop stable nanomagnets by studying materials based on transition metals. The nanomagnet design should have low quantum fluctuations.
Physicist and professor Samir Lounis stated, “We found the smallest fluctuations in materials with a strong magnetic moment which at the same time interacts weakly with that of the carrier material. Furthermore, the material should be chosen so that the energy barrier that prevents the rotation of the magnetic moment is as large as possible.”
How did the researchers come to understand their results? Mainly by “ab initio” calculations based on accepted physical laws.
The calculations were used to explore how the properties of certain atoms (different materials are made of different atoms) are related to the strength of magnetic fluctuations dependent on the zero-point energy concept.
The next thing to investigate will be how the number of atoms corresponds to magnetic fluctuations.