The Independent's journalism is supported by our readers. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn commission.

Scientists discover new type of ‘magic’ magnet

Discovery could pave way for next-generation electronics

Anthony Cuthbertson
Thursday 15 February 2024 14:20 GMT
An alternative type of magnet could be used in next-generation computers
An alternative type of magnet could be used in next-generation computers (Libor Šmejkal/ Anna Birk Hellenes)

Scientists have finally proved the existence of a new type of magnet, after previously believing it impossible.

The team that discovered the phenomenon, which is called altermagnetism, say it could be used to develop more efficient electronic devices.

Altermagnets form a third branch of magnetism after ferromagnets – the kind found on kitchen fridges – and anti ferromagnets, which were first identified by the French physicist Louis Néel in the 1930s.

The experimental proof of altermagnetism was made at the Swiss Light Source (SLS) in collaboration with scientists from the Czech Academy of Sciences and the Paul Scherrer Institut in Switzerland.

First theorised in 2019 by a team at the Institute of Physics in the Czech Republic and the University of Mainz in Germany, altermagnetism can actually be found in existing objects.

“That’s the magic of altermagnets,” said Tomáš Jungwirth, a professor at the Institute of Physics at the Czech Academy of Sciences, who led the study.

“Something that people believed was impossible until recent theoretical predictions is in fact possible... And it is not something that exists only in a few obscure materials. It exists in many crystals that people simply had in their drawers. In that sense, now that we have brought it to light, many people around the world will be able to work on it, giving the potential for a broad impact.”

As well as paving the way for next-generation computers and electronics, the researchers believe the discovery will also improve our understanding of condensed-matter physics, which could prove ground-breaking in the developing field of spintronics.

Spintronics holds the potential to revolutionise computing, as it builds on the use of charged electrons found in electronics by also exploiting the spin-state of electrons to carry information.

The research was detailed in a study, titled ‘Altermagnetic Lifting of Kramers spin degeneracy’, published in the scientific journal Nature on 14 February.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in