Irish-invented material shows fastest magnetic switching ever recorded

7 May 2021

Trinity College Dublin. Image: © David Soanes/

The record-breaking magnetic material could pave the way for a new generation of ultra-fast computers and data storage systems.

A material invented by researchers in Ireland has demonstrated the fastest magnetic switching ever recorded.

Researchers from the Centre for Research on Adaptive Nanostructures and Nanodevices (CRANN) and Trinity College Dublin (TCD) used femtosecond laser systems to switch and then re-switch the magnetic orientation of their material in trillionths of a second.

The demonstration proved to be six times faster than the previous record and a hundred times faster than the clock speed of a personal computer. The results are published in Physical Review Letters.

The researchers achieved their unprecedented switching speeds in an alloy called MRG, first synthesised by the group in 2014 from manganese, ruthenium and gallium.

In the experiment, the team hit thin films of MRG with bursts of red laser light, delivering megawatts of power in less than a billionth of a second.

The heat transfer switches the magnetic orientation of MRG. The switch took one tenth of a picosecond – one picosecond is the equivalent of one trillionth of a second. Additionally, the team discovered they could switch the orientation back again 10 trillionths of a second later.

New device concepts

This record-breaking discovery demonstrates the potential of the material for a new generation of energy-efficient ultra-fast computers and data storage systems.

“In 2014 when my team and I first announced that we had created a completely new alloy of manganese, ruthenium and gallium, known as MRG, we never suspected the material had this remarkable magneto-optical potential,” said Prof Michael Coey of Trinity’s School of Physics and CRANN.

“This demonstration will lead to new device concepts based on light and magnetism that could benefit from greatly increased speed and energy efficiency, perhaps ultimately realising a single universal device with combined memory and logic functionality.

“It is a huge challenge, but we have shown a material that may make it possible. We hope to secure funding and industry collaboration to pursue our work.”

Jenny Darmody is the editor of Silicon Republic