Apr 5, 2011
Journal of Applied Physics
Basic treatment of magnetically soft ferromagnetic metals has been a long struggle during the 55 years of the MMM conferences. At the first conference, Charles Bean brought on stage a four-foot-long mechanical analog of a domain wall. Landau, twenty years earlier had shown that the wall exists to minimize the magnetostatic self-energy of the dipole moments that accompany the spins responsible for ferromagnetism, but no one could calculate the energy of the simple structure that Landau used to illustrate his conjecture. The structure itself was not adequately described. Today, computer programs use the full power of micromagnetics to properly describe the vortex structure that was hidden in Landau’s model. Vortices terminate in swirls that can be manipulated by small bias fields (mT) or currents (mA). The swirls carry external fields of 0.5 T and can oscillate (driven or freely) over distances of tens of nm in times of tenths of ns, providing new tools for scientific and technical advances on the atomic scale. That this could have been overlooked for so long is evidence of the difficulty of visualizing the consequence of what for all these years has been called the pole-avoidance principle.