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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/T027916/1
Title: TERASWITCH - Towards low dissipation THz-induced switching of magnetic materials
Principal Investigator: Ostler, Dr TA
Other Investigators:
Jackson, Dr J
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Max Born Institute for Nonlinear Optics
Department: College of Business, Technology & Eng
Organisation: Sheffield Hallam University
Scheme: New Investigator Award
Starts: 01 September 2020 Ends: 31 August 2022 Value (£): 228,352
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Condensed Matter Physics Magnetism/Magnetic Phenomena
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
No relevance to Underpinning Sectors
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
22 Jan 2020 EPSRC Physical Sciences - January 2020 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Magnetisation switching between two stable bit states (1 and 0) is the key principle of modern-day storage technology. With the explosion in the number of "always connected" devices, and the consumer desire for multimedia and social media content, the volume of data being stored and processed globally has risen at an unprecedented rate, as evidenced by the number of new data centres being built (e.g. Facebook's new data centre in Singapore). The vast quantities of data being generated globally is leading to the emergence of new markets with companies exploiting and trading data in diverse ways - an EU estimate values the digital economy in Europe will be worth 739bn euros by 2020[1]. This growing demand for data storage poses several big questions: where is this volume of data going to be stored? How can the growing demand for data storage and processing be made compatible with the political and social imperative for energy responsibility and, ideally, carbon neutrality? It is estimated that 20% of the world's electricity demand will be used to power data centres by 2025[2], a figure that will undoubtedly grow, and therefore any technology that reduces the energy requirements of data processing and storage is of great national and international importance. This proposal concerns research into reducing the energy use involved in data storage and processing.

Magnetic hard disk drives still form most of the data storage at the server (and hence cloud) level due to their low cost per bit. However, the process of writing information in disk drives uses a relatively large amount of energy due to the magnetic field needed to toggle bits between the two states. Studies in ultrafast magnetization dynamics using femtosecond (1 femtosecond is one millionth of a billionth of a second) laser pulses have demonstrated that low-energy switching is possible, using orders of magnitude less energy. Switching in these studies occurs within two picoseconds (one picosecond is a thousandth of a billionth of a second) opening up the possibility of writing up to 10^12 (a million million) bits per second, one thousand times faster than conventional recording methods, an extremely attractive avenue to realise much faster and more responsive devices that requires research investment. However, the use of strong laser pulses often results in a large amount of heating and can excite a lot of non-linear dynamics. One possible solution to this is to use light at frequencies that are in the THz range with high intensities. Historically, it has been very difficult to generate such light pulses, but recent experimental developments have made this possible and the area of THz science in general has attracted significant attention over the past decade and more recently to control magnetism. Initial studies have shown that significantly lower amounts of energy are required to switch the magnetisation state than in conventional recording, which could revolutionise the way we store and process information. This proposal is aimed at developing these ideas with the goal of understanding the underlying physical processes and how we can engineer efficient, low energy control of magnetism. The work will be carried out alongside world-leading experimental groups to provide important validation and comparisons with theoretical work.

1 - https://ec.europa.eu/digital-single-market/en/news/final-results-european-data-market-study-measuring-size-and-trends-eu-data-economy

2 - https://data-economy.com/data-centres-world-will-consume-1-5-earths-power-2025/
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Organisation Website: http://www.shu.ac.uk