Recently discovered phenomenon could provide a way to bypass the limits to Moore’s Law.
|“One of the biggest missing pieces” needed to make skyrmions a practical data-storage medium, Geoffrey Beach says, was a reliable way to create them when and where they were needed. “So this is a significant breakthrough.” Illustration by Moritz Eisebitt|
New research has shown that an exotic kind of magnetic behavior discovered just a few years ago holds great promise as a way of storing data — one that could overcome fundamental limits that might otherwise be signaling the end of “Moore’s Law,” which describes the ongoing improvements in computation and data storage over recent decades.
Rather than reading and writing data one bit at a time by changing the orientation of magnetized particles on a surface, as today’s magnetic disks do, the new system would make use of tiny disturbances in magnetic orientation, which have been dubbed “skyrmions.” These virtual particles, which occur on a thin metallic film sandwiched against a film of different metal, can be manipulated and controlled using electric fields, and can store data for long periods without the need for further energy input.
In 2016, a team led by MIT associate professor of materials science and engineering Geoffrey Beach documented the existence of skyrmions, but the particles’ locations on a surface were entirely random. Now, Beach has collaborated with others to demonstrate experimentally for the first time that they can create these particles at will in specific locations, which is the next key requirement for using them in a data storage system. An efficient system for reading that data will also be needed to create a commercializable system.
The new findings are reported this week in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, in a paper by Beach, MIT postdoc Felix Buettner, and graduate student Ivan Lemesh, and 10 others at MIT and in Germany.
The system focuses on the boundary region between atoms whose magnetic poles are pointing in one direction and those with poles pointing the other way. This boundary region can move back and forth within the magnetic material, Beach says. What he and his team found four years ago was that these boundary regions could be controlled by placing a second sheet of nonmagnetic heavy metal very close to the magnetic layer. The nonmagnetic layer can then influence the magnetic one, with electric fields in the nonmagnetic layer pushing around the magnetic domains in the magnetic layer. Skyrmions are little swirls of magnetic orientation within these layers, Beach adds.
Read more at the MIT News Office.
David Chandler | MIT News Office
October 2, 2017
Summer Scholar Stephanie Bauman interns in Luqiao Liu lab synthesizing and testing manganese gallium samples for spintronic applications.
Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering Luqiao Liu is developing new magnetic materials known as antiferromagnets, such as manganese gallium samples, that can be operated at room temperature by reversing their electron spin and can serve as the basis for long lasting, spintronic computer memory. Materials Processing Center – Center for Materials Science and Engineering [MPC-CMSE] Summer Scholar Stephanie Bauman spent her internship making and testing these new materials.
Bauman, a University of South Florida physics major, says, “In our project we're working on the area of spintronics, anti-ferromagnetic devices that switch electron spin controlled by a current. I'm working with a lot of new equipment like the vibrating sample magnetometer and the sputterer to lay down thin films.”
“I’ve been working on a daily basis with Joe Finley, who is a graduate student here, and he’s been a explaining a lot of things to me,” Bauman notes. “It’s a very dense subject matter. And he does help me out a lot when we go to things like the X-ray diffraction room, and he shows me how the graphs can interpret how thick each layer of the thin layers of the devices are. He’s really helpful and easy to work with.”
During a visit to the lab, where she synthesizes these thin films with a special machine called a sputter deposition chamber, Bauman says, “I always go back to the checklist just to make sure I'm doing everything in the right order.” In order to take out a sample from the machine she has to follow a complicated set of steps, making sure its parts are correctly lined up and unhooking the sample holder in the main chamber. Because the chamber is pressurized, she must bring it back to everyday atmospheric pressure before taking it out. “Now that I can see that it disengaged, I go ahead and move it all the way back up,” she says. With the sample holder on a moveable arm, she can rotate it out.
|2017 MPC-CMSE Summer Scholar Stephanie Bauman holds a sample of manganese gallium, a new material known as an antiferromagnet, that can serve as the basis for long lasting, spintronic computer memory devices operated by reversing electron spin at room temperature. She interned this summer in the lab of Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering Luqiao Liu. Photo, Denis Paiste, Materials Processing Center.|
The sample moves across a gear arm out of the main chamber into transfer chamber known as a load lock. “A very, very important part of this is to make sure you close the transfer valve again, otherwise you mess up the pressure in the main chamber,” she says. After double-checking the transfer valve is closed, she brings the load lock back to sea level pressure of 760 Torr. Then she takes out the sample holder.
“As you can see the sample is really tiny. It's half a centimeter by a half a centimeter, which is what we're working with right now,” Bauman says. As she loosens the screws on the arms holding the sample in place, she notes that she has to be careful not to scratch the sample with the arms. Once safely removed, she places the sample in a special holder labeled based on when each sample was made, which sample of the day it is and its thickness. That way, she notes, “we can refer back to that in our data so that we know what thickness levels that we’re testing.”
“Sometimes you end up playing tiddlywinks. I know that some younger people don't really know what that game is, but it's what it looks like when you push down on the arm, and the sample goes flying,” Bauman cautions.
Bauman then demonstrates how a new sample is loaded into the sputterer device. “Carefully tighten the screw, making sure not to torque it too much, then you move the other arm into place,” she says. Once both arms are tightened on the sample holder, she can put the sample into the load lock. “Very simple just make sure it's lined up correctly. It's also important to make sure the O-ring is clean, and so is the lid before you put it back on. That way there's a very good seal. So that's really it for the loading, and then you just turn the vacuum pumps back on and wait until it reaches the appropriate pressure and then load it into the main chamber.”
“I'm actually a non-traditional student, which means I'm a little bit older,” Bauman explains. “I have been in the military for 20 years, and I also had a civilian career for a long time in aviation contracts. I decided to go back to school for physics, and it's really been rewarding, especially this internship.”
Bauman’s internship is supported in part by NSF’s Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers program [grant DMR-14-19807]. Participants in the Research Experience for Undergraduates, co-sponsored by the Materials Processing Center and the Center for Materials Science and Engineering, presented their results at a poster session during the last week of the program. The program ran from June 15, 2017, to August 5, 2017, on the MIT campus in Cambridge, Mass.
– Denis Paiste, Materials Processing Center
Sept. 25, 2017
|2017 MPC-CMSE Summer Scholar Stephanie Bauman presents her poster on her internship in the lab of Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering Luqiao Liu making and testing new materials known as antiferromagnets, such as manganese gallium, that can serve as the basis for long lasting, spintronic computer memory devices operated by reversing their electron spin at room temperature. Photo, Denis Paiste, Materials Processing Center.|
MIT researcher helps scientists and engineers hone their visual imagery.
|Felice Frankel, a research scientist in MIT’s Center for Materials Science and Engineering, has helped to produce images that just in the last few months have graced the covers of Nature, Nature Materials, and Environmental Science, among others. Image, Felice Frankel/Nature/Nature Materials|
Producing images powerful enough to be selected for the covers of major research journals is nothing new for Felice Frankel: She’s being doing it for decades with great success. But now, she’s extending that approach, using a growing arsenal of visual tools and techniques as she works with scientists and engineers to develop imagery that illustrates their concepts.
Frankel, a research scientist in MIT’s Center for Materials Science and Engineering, has helped to produce images that in the last few months have graced the covers of Nature, Nature Materials, and Environmental Science, among others. Some of her work is also featured in the exhibit “Images of Discovery: Communicating science through photography,” running at the MIT Museum through this August.
Frankel started her career in science and then turned to photographing architecture and landscapes, publishing a few books along the way. She started working with MIT scientists to improve their visual communications back in the ’90s. She’s been expanding her work ever since, both developing new ways of communicating ideas visually and teaching techniques for doing so.
Her latest work has involved combining a variety of photographic images into photo-illustrations that help to explain a process better than individual photos could. The latest journal covers have been examples of this approach. “I take pieces of photos I’ve already made and put them together as an illustration,” she says.
Read more at the MIT News Office.
David L. Chandler | MIT News Office
July 13, 2017
First “center of excellence” for new MIT.nano facility will focus on novel detectors and imaging systems.
|A discussion featured some of the speakers from the day-long SENSE.nano conference: [left to right] Juejun Hu, associate professor of materials science and engineering; Polina Anikeeva, associate professor of materials science and engineering; Max Shulaker, assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science; Brian Anthony, principal research scientist in mechanical engineering and co-leader of SENSE.nano; and Vladimir Bulovic, associate dean for engineering and professor of emerging technology. Photo, Michael D. Spencer.|
In anticipation of the official opening of the new MIT.nano building — which will house some of the world’s leading facilities supporting research in nanoscience and nanotechnology — MIT officially launched a new “center of excellence” called SENSE.nano, which is dedicated to pushing the frontiers of research in sensing technologies.
Like the new building, which is slated to open a year from now, SENSE.nano is an endeavor that cuts across the divisions of departments, labs, and schools, to encompass research in areas including chemistry, physics, materials science, electronics, computer science, biology, mechanical engineering, and more. Faculty members from many of these areas spoke about their research during a daylong conference on May 25 that marked the official launch of the new center.
Introducing the event, MIT President L. Rafael Reif said that “[MIT.nano] will create opportunities for research and collaboration for more than half our current faculty, and 67 percent of those recently tenured. In fact, we expect that it will serve — and serve to inspire – more than 2,000 people across our campus, from all five MIT schools, and many more from beyond our walls.”
Read more at the MIT News Office.
David L. Chandler | MIT News Office
June 1, 2017
New center for development of high-tech fibers and fabrics opens headquarters, unveils two products ready for commercialization.
|Marty Ellis, of Inman Mills in South Carolina, checks a machine manufacturing fabric developed through AFFOA. Photo, courtesy of AFFOA.|
Just over a year after its funding award, a new center for the development and commercialization of advanced fabrics officially opened its headquarters June 19 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and will be unveiling the first two advanced fabric products to be commercialized from the center’s work.
Advanced Functional Fabrics of America (AFFOA) is a public-private partnership, part of Manufacturing USA, that is working to develop and introduce U.S.-made high-tech fabrics that provide services such as health monitoring, communications, and dynamic design. In the process, AFFOA aims to facilitate economic growth through U.S. fiber and fabric manufacturing.
AFFOA’s national headquarters will open today, with an event featuring Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics James MacStravic, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas, U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, New Balance CEO Robert DeMartini, MIT President L. Rafael Reif, and AFFOA CEO Yoel Fink. Sample versions of one of the center’s new products, a programmable backpack made of advanced fabric produced in North and South Carolina, will be distributed to attendees at the opening.
Read more at the MIT News Office.
David L. Chandler | MIT News Office
June 19, 2017
Head of Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science will succeed Ian Waitz.
|Anantha P. Chandrakasan. Photo, Patsy Sampson.|
Anantha P. Chandrakasan, the Vannevar Bush Professor and head of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS), has been named dean of MIT’s School of Engineering, effective July 1. He will succeed Ian A. Waitz, the Jerome C. Hunsaker Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics, who will become MIT’s vice chancellor.
During his six-year tenure as head of MIT’s largest academic department, Chandrakasan spearheaded a number of initiatives that opened opportunities for students, postdocs, and faculty to conduct research, explore entrepreneurial projects, and engage with EECS.
“Anantha balances his intellectual creativity and infectious energy with a remarkable ability to deeply listen to, learn from, and integrate other people’s views into a compelling vision,” MIT President L. Rafael Reif says. “In a time of significant challenges, from new pressures on federal funding to the rising global competition for top engineering talent, I am confident that Anantha will guide the School of Engineering to maintain and enhance its position of leadership. And I believe that in the process he will help make all of MIT stronger, too.”
Read more at the MIT News Office.
MIT News Office
June 23, 2017
MPC-CMSE Summer Scholars tackling projects from magnetic thin films to catalysts for energy.
Summer Scholars co-sponsored by the Materials Processing Center and the Center for Materials Science and Engineering recently settled on their research projects and lab assignments. Summer Scholars faced a difficult decision to choose a lab after hearing enticing faculty presentations and lab tours.
Luke Soule found all the possible projects interesting but honed in on electrochemistry, choosing to work in the Prof. Yang Shao-Horn’s Electrochemical Energy Lab. During a tour of the lab, graduate student Karthik Akkiraju presented several research projects on the role of catalysts in lowering the energy needed to stimulate electrochemical reactions in energy devices. Akkiraju said Shao-Horn looks for students who are excited about the work and encourages students to be independent and to work together as a community. He emphasized the family-like atmosphere of the group. “At EEL, you never work alone,” Akkiraju says.
- Developing artificial mucus Developing artificial mucus
- Researching magnetic thin films Researching magnetic thin films
- Looking over 3D printed gear Looking over 3D printed gear
- Encouraging independence Encouraging independence
- Peeking inside a sputtering chamber Peeking inside a sputtering chamber
- Testing properties of biological gels Testing properties of biological gels
- Flow battery research Flow battery research
- Superconducting nanowire studies Superconducting nanowire studies
- Explaining laser bench Explaining laser bench
- Examining research samples Examining research samples
In Assistant Professor Luqiao Liu’s lab, electrical engineering and computer science graduate student Joseph T. Finley explained how he uses processes such as electron sputtering and ion milling to make magnetic thin films. The lab is developing new magnetically switchable materials for computer memory. Shortly after the lab tour, Summer Scholar Stephanie Bauman said, “I really like the one we just left, the anti-ferromagnetic, it seems to be mostly focused toward physics which is my major and more so than a lot of the other bio or chem projects.” Bauman chose to work in Liu’s lab this summer.
Alexandra Oliveira chose to work under Raymond A.  and Helen E. St. Laurent Career Development Professor of Chemical Engineering Fikile R. Brushett on redox flow batteries. ‘”Right now I’m working on the permeability of different microstructures for carbon electrodes and I’ll be attempting to electrograft molecules onto the electrodes to change their chemical properties for aqueous and non-aqueous flow batteries,” Oliveira says.
Summer Scholar Grace Noel chose to work in Charles and Hilda Roddey Career Development Professor in Chemical Engineering William A. Tisdale’s lab on a project to make and study metal halide perovskite nanoplatelets. These platelets, which are like flat quantum dots, are sometimes just over half a unit cell in thickness and their color can be adjusted by altering their composition.
Summer Scholar Richard B. [Ben] Canty is working in Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering Yuriy Román’s lab on a project to develop a catalyst for breaking down lignins in plant biomass into industrially useful chemicals like benzene. “I’m mixing in stuff in a tiny little batch reactor, putting it on a heater on a shelf, watching it so it doesn’t explode, centrifuging it and then running it on gas chromatographs and mass spectrometers,” Canty explains.
During the lab tour, NanoStructures Laboratory postdoc Reza Baghdadi explained how Prof. Karl Berggren aims to develop superconducting nanowires made of niobium nitride for reducing data processing energy consumption. The internship offers a chance to learn different fabrication skills, such as photolithography and electron beam lithography, thin film deposition and etching processes, with optical and electrical studies at liquid helium temperatures, about 4.2 kelvins. Summer Scholar Saleem Iqbal chose to work in the Berggren lab this summer.
AIM Photonics Academy interns were matched separately to their projects. Stuart Daudlin is working on “Statistical Modeling of Photonic Device Variations” with Duane Boning, the Clarence J. LeBel Professor of Electrical Engineering at MIT. Ryan Kosciolek is working on “Nonlinear Photonic Devices” with MIT Microphotonics Center Principal Research Scientist Anuradha [Anu] Agarwal. Summer Scholars attend regular weekly or bi-weekly lab group meetings. Larger groups have dedicated sub-groups as well that meet regularly.
The REU internships are supported in part by NSF’s Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers program [grant DMR-14-19807]. Participants will present their results at a poster session the last week of the program. The program runs from June 15, 2017, to August 5, 2017, on the MIT campus in Cambridge, Mass.
|Summer Scholar||Faculty Lab|
|Alejandro Aponte||Michael Cima|
|Stephanie Bauman||Luqiao Liu|
|Lucia Brunel||Gareth McKinley|
|Richard B. Canty||Yuriy Román|
|Stuart Daudlin||Duane Boning|
|Amrita Duggal||Paula Hammond|
|Kaila Holloway||Michael Strano|
|Saleem Iqbal||Karl Berggren|
|Ryan Kosciolek||Anuradha Agarwal|
|Gaetana Michelet||Katharina Ribbeck|
|Grace Noel||William Tisdale|
|Alexandra Oliveira||Fikile Brushett|
|Kirill Shmilovich||Alfredo Alexander-Katz|
|Luke Soule||Yang Shao-Horn|
- Written by Denis Paiste, Materials Processing Center
University of Massachusetts, Amherst, chemical engineering major Ashley L. Kaiser will return to MIT this coming fall as a graduate student in materials science and engineering. She will join Professor Brian Wardle's research group, where she worked during summer 2016 on strengthening aerospace nanocomposites with postdoc Itai Stein SM ’13, PhD ’16. Kaiser, who was accepted to five graduate schools, was one of six to win UMass Amherst’s Rising Researcher award. Her Commonwealth Honors College thesis project focused on “Low-Temperature Graphene Growth by Plasma-Enhanced Chemical Vapor Deposition.”
- Alexandra T. Barth, 2016 Summer Scholar Alexandra T. Barth, 2016 Summer Scholar
- Ashley L. Kaiser, 2016 Summer Scholar Ashley L. Kaiser, 2016 Summer Scholar
- Grant Smith, 2016 Summer Scholar Grant Smith, 2016 Summer Scholar
- Justin Cheng, 2016 Summer Scholar Justin Cheng, 2016 Summer Scholar
Alexandra T. Barth received a “Most Outstanding Senior” award from Florida State University, where she was part of the Honors Program. Barth will pursue a PhD in Chemistry at the California Institute of Technology. She will start as a research assistant in the fall under Dr. Theo Agapie, synthesizing metal oxide clusters and arene-supported complexes that act as chemical catalysts. “My internship last summer was vital in introducing me and providing a foundational knowledge of catalyst research, which was very different from the undergraduate research I had conducted at my own institution, and I am confident that the relationship I established with my MIT research advisor Dr. Román enabled this opportunity,” Barth says.
Grant Smith, will begin doctoral studies at the University of Chicago Institute for Molecular Engineering as an IME Fellow working on quantum information systems and materials. Smith worked last summer to establish parameters for making ferromagnetic thin films in the Luqiao Liu lab.
Justin Cheng will enroll this fall in the University of Minnesota Twin Cities Chemical Engineering and Materials Science Ph.D. program. During summer 2016, Cheng worked in Professor of Electrical Engineering Karl K. Berggren’s Quantum Nanostructures and Nanofabrication Group to develop specialized techniques for patterning gold on silicon.