All it Takes is One (Very Carefully Located) Atom to Make a Magnet
Scientists have successfully created the world’s smallest magnet - it’s a single atom, and it could be an integral part of computers in the future. The one -atom magnet was made by a team of researchers from the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland, and it’s believed to be the most stable version ever created.
The team’s discovery is notable because magnets this small are hard to keep magnetised, meaning they wouldn’t be able to hold anything for very long if they were used in data storage devices. Using a pioneering technique, EFPL’s Harald Brune and his team got around this problem by placing atoms of the rare-earth element holmium on thin films of magnesium oxide. Using this method, atomsized magnets which actually hold on to their magnetism can be created, since holmium’s electron structure prevents the magnetic field from being disturbed.
At this stage, the magnet is just a prototype - creating it is incredibly di fficult and time-consuming, and it only remains stable at temperatures of around -233°C. However, it ’s a major brea kthrough which could change the way we use computers in the future.