Skyrmions are particle-like solutions of nonlinear equations that are now found in many physical contexts, such as Bose-Einstein condensates, the quantum Hall effect, and liquid crystals. Chrial magnetic skyrmions have recently been discovered, manifesting themselves as whirling spin structures including all possible spin directions. These novel spin textures are now being studied in earnest due to their prospects for applications in data storage.
Most current mass storage devices are hard disks, but further improvements are challenging due to the fragility of their mechanical parts. Therefore, comparably high density solid-state devices are required to improve mass storage performance reliability and reduce energy consumption. Skyrmions are excellent candidates for a breakthrough in this problem, since they can be moved using spin-polarised currents with exceptional ease. Experimental studies of magnetic skyrmions are at a very early stage, however: most work has been done on bulk crystals, with very little on technologically-compatible thin films and nothing on nanoscale devices.
The host group has recently demonstrated the stabilization of skyrmion textures in epilayers of FeCoSi and FeGe. This permits the fabrication of skyrmion-based spintronic devices. Their expertise in high frequency measurements of the spin dynamics of nanostructures is lacking, however. The experience that the fellow can bring from his background in a world-leading group in making and interpreting such measurements in conventional magnetic vortex-bearing nanostructures is essential to realize the technological potential of skyrmions in spintronics. Establishing methods for the high frequency excitation of skyrmion motion and its subsequent detection method will lead to improvements in spin-transfer efficiency by material engineering, analysis of transport mechanisms, and scaling into the nanometer regime, ultimately allowing electrical manipulation and detection of single skyrmions.
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