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A new technique to transform ambient heat into motion in nanoscale devices has been created.

Scientists at the University of Exeter have discovered a technique to transform ambient heat into motion in nanoscale devices. This thermal ratchet is made from a material known as “artificial spin ice,” which comprises a number of tiny nanomagnets made of the nickel-iron alloy Permalloy, and which are 200 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair.

These findings establish an unexpected route to transforming magnetic energy into the directed motion of magnetization. The effect now found in the two-dimensional magnetic structures comes with the promise that it will be of practical use in nanoscale devices, such as magnetic nanomotors, actuators, or sensors.

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