Physicists Create Artificial Magnetic Monopoles

Researchers Discover Artificial Magnetic Monopoles

This illustration shows a grid of magnetic vortex structures. Credit: Copyright TUM.

By merging tiny magnetic whirls, called skyrmions, a team of scientists were able to create artificial magnetic monopoles.

A team of researchers from Cologne, Munich and Dresden have managed to create artificial magnetic monopoles. To do this, the scientists merged tiny magnetic whirls, so-called skyrmions. At the point of merging, the physicists were able to create a monopole, which has similar characteristics to a fundamental particle postulated by Paul Dirac in 1931. In addition to fundamental research, the monopoles may also have application potential. The question of whether magnetic whirls can be used in the production of computer components one day is currently being researched by a number of groups worldwide.

When a magnet is divided, a new magnet with north and south poles is always created. However, a monopole, i.e. a north pole without a south pole or a south pole without a north pole has not yet been discovered. In the current edition of the journal Science, researchers from Cologne, Munich and Dresden describe the discovery of new type of artificial monopole in a solid, i.e. particles, which have similar characteristics to monopoles, but which only exist within materials.

Over the last few years, materials in which magnetic whirls, so-called skyrmions, are formed, have been examined intensively. These whirls influence the movements of the electrons in exactly the same manner as magnetic fields. For this reason, artificial magnet fields are used to describe these whirls as well as their influence on the electrons.

Even if these are not “real” magnetic fields, it is possible to measure them experimentally in the same manner as normal magnet fields as they deflect electrons.

The researchers asked questions as to the consequences of attempting to destroy the magnetic whirls. To do this, the group working under the direction of Prof. Eng from the Technischen Universität Dresden observed magnetic whirls with a magnetic force microscope: a tiny magnetic tip samples the surface of the magnets and measures the direction of the magnetization thus making the ca. 50 nanometer sized whirl visible. They were able to observe on the surface that the magnetic whirls apparently coalesce when the skyrmion phase is destroyed.

What happens, however, within the materials? Measurements taken by the group working under the direction of Prof. Pfleiderer in Munich using neutron scattering suggest that similar processes occur there, but individual whirls were not observed in this manner. For this reason, Stefan Buhrandt and Christoph Schütte working in Prof. Rosch’s group at the University of Cologne conducted computer simulations. These showed that the whirls neighboring the merging process observed on the surface in the experiment also occur within the materials.

Researchers Create Artificial Magnetic Monopoles

This illustration depicts the merging of two magnetic vortices, so-called skyrmions, in the magnetic structure of a material. The point at which the vortices merge displays the properties of an emergent magnetic monopole. When the monopole moves along the direction of the vortices, a skyrmion is created or destroyed. Credit: Image by C. Schuette, copyright University of Cologne

The image schematically shows how two magnetic whirls merge into one.

Due to the fact that every whirl carries an artificial magnetic field, their creation or destruction occurs at the point of merging. “This means that an artificial magnetic monopole has to sit on this point,” describes Prof. Rosch, “whenever two magnetic whirls merge in the experiment, an artificial magnetic monopole has flown through surface.”

Magnetic monopoles have been searched for in vain in the area of particle physics for a long time. In 1931, Paul Dirac postulated the existence of a fundamental particle to explain why electrons and protons carry electrical charges of the same size. This is surprising because the elements of the protons and electrons are completely different fundamental particles. Dirac, however, argued that the existence of a single magnetic monopole would be enough to explain that the charges of all fundamental particles have to be quantized, i.e. exactly an integer multiple of an elementary charge. The newly discovered artificial monopoles fulfil exactly this quantization requirement. “It is fascinating that something as fundamental as a magnetic monopole can be realized in a piece of material,” describes Stefan Buhrandt. Despite this, artificial monopoles cannot solve Dirac’s problem: only electrons in solid state, but not protons, feel the artificial magnet fields.

In addition to their use for fundamental research, artificial monopoles could also have application potential. Many groups worldwide are currently researching the question of whether magnetic whirls could be used in the production of computer components. If this were possible, one would also have to create and destroy whirls: magnetic monopoles would then play an important role in this.

Publication: P. Milde, et al., “Unwinding of a Skyrmion Lattice by Magnetic Monopoles,” Science 31 May 2013: Vol. 340 no. 6136 pp. 1076-1080; DOI: 10.1126/science.1234657

Images: Copyright TUM; Image by C. Schuette, copyright University of Cologne

4 Comments on "Physicists Create Artificial Magnetic Monopoles"

  1. Troy Kempton | May 31, 2013 at 6:49 pm | Reply

    This would have caught Kelvin’s eye, it’s time to rewind entropy.

  2. Madanagopal.V.C | June 1, 2013 at 7:24 am | Reply

    Magnetic monopoles are observed only in electron flow in materials but not in protons of atoms which got them fixed. Perhaps this can throw some light on Sun’s magnetic storms as they come only as ‘whirls’ and they never intervene in the Sun’s fixed magnetic intensity like that of earth, of 0.38 oersteds , which is due to the magnetic dipoles in the core of the Sun. Thank You.

    • C. Peter O'Connor | June 2, 2013 at 2:20 am | Reply

      Hi, Madanagropal.VC. Errrr. I think you should be thanking ‘Me’ for the presentation of this work because, it is only through the work contained in my thesis on the creation of our universe published and presented to the academia of the world in, June 2011 that experiments such as this have become commonplace all over the world.

      The reason you haven’t heard of me is because, I was foolish enough to trust the academia of the world.

      For the last century, the scientific Community has been crying out for someone to come along and correct the shortcomings held within the current (Standard Model)and who, instead of showing appreciation for my efforts when they received it, instantly subdued my work in every way possible.

      Within the format of my work I postulated that our entire universe is made from (Void Energy) – (Infinity = Electromagnetic Energy).

      I described how single strand of that electromagnetic energy had snapped and had begun to coil up into a ball, an entity that, under the weight, heat and turbulence that ensued, broke down into ever smaller electromagnetic particles, the larger of which closed into loops of electromagnetic energy which I defined as, ‘Neutrinos’. 1836 of which when squashed together become ‘Neutrons’, ‘Protons’.

      You suggest that magnetic monopoles only occur in (Electron flow) but the same anomaly can be observed in every single particle in our entire universe if the content of my work is subjected to experiment.

      ‘Have you not noticed the massive increase in such activity as that given in this article over the last two years?’

      Please allow me to ask you a direct question;- ‘How would ‘You’ feel if you had spent ten years reading and absorbing every single facet of the, ‘STANDARD MODEL’ and after that time realising the entire concept on which it was based, was WRONG. That you then spent the following year writing out a thesis which, after deposit was then subdued by those supposedly wanting to advance Humanity’s understanding of what is around them?’

      If you think for one moment that any of my words are false, contact me at; [email protected] and I’ll arrange to send you a copy of my thesis.

      P.S. Don’t forget! Whenever you read an article like this one, ‘Think of Me’, (the person who presented to the world the greatest set of theories ever produced) and who through acts of, jealousy and envy has had their work subjugated by the very people who taught you what you ‘Think’ you know about ‘Physics’!

  3. is your mail wrong cpetero?

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