October 15, 2009

Researchers Discover ‘Magnetricity’

Researchers have unearthed a magnetic force similar to electricity: magnetic charges that act and interrelate like electrical charges.

This is the first known use of the magnetic monopoles that subsist in spin ice crystals. A research team wrote that monopoles have the ability to group together and form a "magnetic current" similar to electricity.

Called "magnetricity", this new discovery may be utilized in magnetic storage or computers. Magnetic monopoles were first thought to be present a century ago.

Even though there are positively and negatively charged protons and electrons, there were not any particles that were known to have magnetic charges. Instead, each magnet had both a "north" and "south" point.

In September of 2009, two research parties reviewed and wrote about the reality of monopoles, which are particles that have a magnetic charge. They are only present in the spin ice crystals.

The spin crystals are combined pyramids of ions, formed in a way that when dropped to very low temperatures, the materials indicate small, separate pockets of magnetic charge.

A research team has also indicated that these "quasi-particles" of magnetic charge can move about jointly, creating a magnetic current similar to the electric current built by moving electrons.

They accomplished this via sub-atomic particles called muons, shaped at the Science and Technology Facilities Council's (STFC) ISIS neutron and muon basis in England.

The team, headed by Stephen Bramwell at the London Center for Nanotechnology, surrounded the muons in spin ice to exhibit the movement of the magnetic monopoles.

When the spin ice was positioned into the magnetic field, the monopoles moved to one side, which is what electrons would do when put into an electric field.

Professor Bramwell said to BBC News that the progress is not likely to become a popular way of providing energy, as the particles only move in spin ices.

"We're not going to be seeing a magnetic light bulb or anything like that," Bramwell said.


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