Researchers outline their proposed combination which would allow for a more stable perpendicular anisotropic energy (PMA), the key driving component in a computer’s RAM (random-access memory) or data storage. The material would be made up of ultrathin films, known as Fe monolayers, grown on top of non-magnetic substances, in this case X nitride substrate, where X could be boron, gallium, aluminum or indium. According to the research, this combination showed anisotropic energy would increase by fifty times, from 1 meV to 50 meV, allowing for larger amounts of data to be stored in smaller environments. There is a provisional patent pending which has been filed by UNHInnovation, which advocates for, manages, and promotes UNH’s intellectual property.
In an era dependent on extremely large amounts of information, from laptops to phones, Zang says that there is a huge demand for more efficient devices. Creating smaller processors and storage units is an important step, not only for size but for data safety.
“There is a huge movement to switch to magnetic random access memory (MRAM) for storage in computers because it is more stable,” said Zang. “Not only is data storage safer, but there is also less radiation emitted from the device. Our calculations and material combination opens the door to possibilities for much smaller computers for everything from basic data storage to traveling on space missions. Imagine launching a rocket with a computer the size of a pin head – it not only saves space but also a lot of fuel.”
Large perpendicular magnetic anisotropy (PMA) in transition metal thin films provides a pathway for enabling the intriguing physics of nanomagnetism and developing broad spintronics applications. After decades of searches for promising materials, the energy scale of PMA of transition metal thin films, unfortunately, remains only about 1 meV. This limitation has become a major bottleneck in the development of ultradense storage and memory devices. We discovered unprecedented PMA in Fe thin-film growth on the Embedded Image N-terminated surface of III-V nitrides from first-principles calculations. PMA ranges from 24.1 meV/u.c. in Fe/BN to 53.7 meV/u.c. in Fe/InN. Symmetry-protected degeneracy between x2 − y2 and xy orbitals and its lift by the spin-orbit coupling play a dominant role. As a consequence, PMA in Fe/III-V nitride thin films is dominated by first-order perturbation of the spin-orbit coupling, instead of second-order in conventional transition metal/oxide thin films. This game-changing scenario would also open a new field of magnetism on transition metal/nitride interfaces.