What about skyrmions?

A magnetized cobalt disk (red) placed atop a thin cobalt-palladium film (light purple background) can be made to confer its own ringed configuration of magnetic moments (orange arrows) to the film below (purple arrows), creating a skyrmion in the film. The skyrmion, which is stable at room temperature, might be usable in computer memory systems. Credit: Dustin Gilbert/NIST

Skyrmions are "ghostly" quantum rings that appear at very low temperature (near absolute zero) in a few materials, like MnSi and FeCoSi. In magnetic materials the spin of electrons are all aligned and point in the same direction. Hence the magnetic field that is "felt" around the atom(s).  

A physicist, Tom Skyrme, discovered that in some extreme conditions the magnetic field can form rings and these rings are quite stable, they are not easily influenced by external magnetic field. Hence, they would be ideal to store information. 

The problem, of course, is that keeping atoms at such a low temperature is coslty. 
Now a research team at NIST (in cooperation with other researchers) have found a way to create skyrmions at ambient temperature.

They placed nano disks of magnetised cobalt on the surface of a cobalt palladium layer. Using a polarised neutron reflectometer at NIST they were able to prove the formation of skyrmions.  

We are still very far from a skyrmion chip to replace a flash memory, but the result is interesting for people working on spintronics. It also tells us that Nature can teach us a lot more and that we are nowhere at the end of our quest for ways to store information. Circular magnetic fields provided by skyrmions require a fraction of the energy needed today to store information. As Richard Feynman once said: "There's plenty of room at the bottom"...

Author - Roberto Saracco

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