Paul van Gerven
16 May 2019

Physicists from the Radboud University demonstrated what could be the most energy efficient method of data storage without compromising speed. They managed to reverse the spin in a magnetic material by firing laser pulses at it at the highest possible speed but with the least amount of energy. “With this fundamental breakthrough, we finally have an idea about the physical properties of materials when used for magnetic data storage in the most energy-efficient way,” says Alexey Kimel, professor of Physics at Radboud University.

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Ultrashort light pulses enable reversing magnetic spins within a few picoseconds from one position (red arrow) to the other (white arrow), allowing fast and energy-efficient data storage. Credit: Brad Baxley/

Previously, the researchers were unable to fully reverse the spin in the same material using the same conditions. By fitting the magnetic material with gold ‘antennas’, however, the electromagnetic pulse is strongly focused, resulting in a high enough intensity to reverse the spin within a few picoseconds while hardly requiring any energy.

With this new approach, data storage could become more than 1000 times faster than current technologies allow and with unprecedented low energy use. According to Kimel, “So far, this is purely a proof of concept, but it does open up new possibilities in magnetic technology that we previously believed impossible, such as computers that are super fast and cold at the same time.”