Scientists are studying bismuth ferrite (BFO) material that has the potential to store information much more efficiently than is currently possible. BFO could also be used in sensors, transducers, and other electronics.
With present technology, information on a computer is encoded by magnetic fields, a process that requires a lot of energy — more than 99 percent of which is wasted in the form of excess heat. To avoid waste heat, information can be stored by applying an electric field to write it and a magnetic field to read it if materials are used that are responsive to both fields at the same time.
BFO is multiferroic, meaning it responds to both electric and magnetic fields, and is potentially suitable for storing information on a computer. But its magnetoelectric response is small. Simulations were done of conditions that enhance the magnetoelectric response to the point that it could be used to more efficiently store information by using electricity, rather than magnetism.
The researchers documented the phenomenon responsible for the enhanced response, which they call an “electroacoustic magnon.” The name reflects the fact that the discovery is a mix of three known “quasiparticles” that are similar to oscillations in a solid: acoustic phonons, optical phonons, and magnons.