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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/Y023250/1
Title: Observing, Creating and Addressing Topological Spin Textures in a Monolayer XY Magnet
Principal Investigator: Kiraly, Dr B
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Catholic (Radboud) University Foundation
Department: Sch of Physics & Astronomy
Organisation: University of Nottingham
Scheme: New Investigator Award
Starts: 01 February 2024 Ends: 31 January 2027 Value (£): 621,248
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
19 Sep 2023 EPSRC Physical Sciences Prioritisation Panel - September 2023 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
In a series of pioneering works in the early 1970's, John Kosterlitz and David Thouless first connected the concept of topology to the physics of solids. The basis of this framework is the discrete topological unit, an object defined by its resistance to being smoothly deformed into a continuous background, in the way a disk cannot be smoothly deformed into a ring or torus. Kosterlitz and Thouless showed that the most favourable configurations of the systems they explored must host these topological units. They then went on to predict a material phase transition without symmetry breaking based on these objects, violating all known theories and observations at the time. This so-called topological phase transition has subsequently been used to describe transitions in thin-film superconductors, liquid crystals, and two-dimensional magnets. For this work, Kosterlitz and Thouless shared the 2016 Nobel Prize. Yet, despite the groundbreaking nature of these findings and their subsequent wide-ranging experimental support, the topological units originally predicted have never been observed at the single unit level.

In this programme of work, we will use highly advanced microscopy techniques to "see" each of these topological objects for the first time. The unparalleled resolution of these microscopes can be further used to map the interior of the objects all the way down to their atomic building blocks. These experiments, when combined with advanced computational approaches to the original problem considered by Kosterlitz and Thouless, will provide an entirely new microscopic portrait of these topologically protected objects.

Yet, this work aims far beyond simply observing the topological units; we will develop and deliver a series of approaches to actively manipulate these objects. The first set of techniques for manipulation will utilize influence from the microscope itself, in much the same way a magnifying glass can be used to start a fire. The second series of approaches will modify the surrounding environment to influence the properties and behaviour of the topological objects.

As an individual topological unit cannot be smoothly deformed, it represents an unprecedented opportunity for information technology: using a topological state to store and protect a piece of information. Topologically protected data sidesteps the conventional approaches based on energy to protect information, making them extremely promising for high-density, energy efficient approaches to magnetic information technologies.

Ultimately, the set of experiments proposed is designed to inform how we might move from a microscopic topological element toward a fully functional unit of a computer. The insights picked up along the way will answer many more fundamental questions: To what extent does topology protect information? How do these units behave in real, that is defective, materials? What approaches can we take to influence the fundamental behaviour of these objects?

Key Findings
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Organisation Website: http://www.nottingham.ac.uk